Highways England rejects M20 contraflow proposal

Highways England has rejected the idea of a contraflow on the M20 in Kent during Operation Stack.

The idea of a contraflow had been suggested by the Freight Transport Association (FTA) during an Operation Stack Summit hosted by Kent County Council (KCC) last Friday (24 July), when it was proposed as a possible ‘short-term’ solution throughout the summer in order to keep traffic moving on the M20 in Kent.

Highways England has said that a contraflow would present a significant and unacceptable risk to the safety of road users and anyone required to work in it.

A Highways England spokesperson said: “Highways England has looked into the possibility of a temporary contraflow system on the London-bound carriageway of the M20 when the coastbound carriageway is closed for Operation Stack.

“We have decided a contraflow would present a significant and unacceptable risk to the safety of road users and anyone required to work within it. We have presented our reasons to our partners, including Kent Police and Kent County Council, who support our decision.

“We are continuing our work with the task force to urgently review what other measures could be put in place to minimise disruption to local communities and allow safe, prompt and orderly movement of freight to the Port of Dover or Channel Tunnel.”

Natalie Chapman, FTA Head of Policy South East England, commented: “FTA is hugely frustrated by the rejection of the suggestion of a contraflow being introduced on the M20. This would be preferable to the current situation when Operation Stack is implemented on the motorway which has a devastating impact on local businesses and communities. We understand that Highways England have looked at the contraflow option and are concerned at the risk to safety in introducing this, but the fact remains that we still need a safe and workable solution.”

Operation Stack is used to park HGVs on the M20 and can affect 35 miles of the motorway. The system is normally used during cross-Channel disruption, and has been implemented on 15 occasions in the past five weeks causing subsequent chaos in Kent not only for freight operators, but also for residents, tourist traffic and local businesses.

Ms Chapman added: “Ideally we need a long term answer to Operation Stack, but short-term we need a solution – and we need it now. This is the busiest time of the year for tourist and freight traffic heading through the county of Kent, and we have to find some way of resolving this reoccurring problem.”

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