Manston Airport to provide temporary relief during Operation Stack

Highways Reporters

The government has announced that Manston Airport will be temporarily used as an alternative for freight traffic when Operation Stack is in place on the M20.

An agreement has been reached with the owners of Manston Airport in East Kent to enable Kent County Council, Highways England and Kent Police to temporarily use the airfield to help reduce pressure on the M20 during Operation Stack.

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.

It is currently lifted (Tuesday) and there has been less disruption in Kent over the weekend, but the government says the introduction of Manston Airport into Operation Stack when required will provide short term additional capacity to help manage freight traffic on its way to the Port of Dover. It will work alongside the existing Operation Stack to help reduce disruption on the M20.

Freight will be directed when the diversion is in place. Holiday-makers will be able to follow clearly signed routes to their destinations.

Transport Minister Lord Ahmad said: “Working together we have found a viable short-term solution to the disruption residents and industry in the M20 corridor from Dover to Maidstone have been experiencing in recent weeks as a result of Operation Stack.

“By using Manston Airfield we have secured an interim solution while we work to find a longer term resolution, which meets the needs of the whole of Kent and of course the interests of British industry.”

The use of Manston will be kept under review and impacts will be monitored on local routes and at the Port of Dover. This short term measure will provide immediate relief to those living around the M20 but the government continues to work with Kent County Council, Highways England and Kent Police on a range of short to long term solutions.

In addition quick to market products will be identified as part of the filter procedure on entry to Operation Stack. Such loads will at present be limited to fresh produce which need to be at market within a matter of hours, but will not include other products with a longer life span.

The following loads will therefore not enter Operation Stack but be routed directly to the Channel Tunnel or the Port of Dover:

  • Livestock and other live loads, which includes live shellfish

  • ‘Quick to market’ fresh produce, including fish and meat

  • Hazardous goods – explosive (class 1) and radioactive materials (class 7)

  • Freight/cargo for critical care – emergency medicines, equipment for critical care and any other material required to preserve life

  • Items critical for humanitarian need and welfare of the nation.

Freight Transport Association (FTA) deputy chief executive James Hookham said: “Anything that relieves pressure on the M20 and surrounding roads is to be welcomed, especially at the busiest time of year for freight and tourist traffic. We have been calling on Highways England and the government to come up with a solution and this temporary measure could alleviate the problem.

“However, this is part of a much bigger issue encompassing the ongoing unrest in Calais and the overall lack of rest facilities for drivers in Kent. We would urge the government to continue to work with their French counterparts to address the migrant crisis and also to address the need for more truck stops so drivers can take their rests in safety and with decent facilities.”

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