Cameron under pressure as transport cost of Calais crisis stacks up

 

The Government is under mounting pressure to ensure Britons affected by transport chaos at Calais receive compensation, after freight bosses blasted the ‘piecemeal’ solutions to the crisis.

Daily intrusions by as many as 2,000 migrants at the Channel Tunnel’s freight terminal have caused severe disruption either side of the crossing as people attempt to enter England.

It is feared UK freight firms have been badly hit by the ongoing disruption, with the Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimating the industry is losing £5m for every 10,000 lorries stranded each day either side of the channel.

As many as 5,000 lorries were queuing on the M20 this weekend before Kent Police lifted emergency measures – known as Operation Stack – designed to counteract congestion by separating freight and normal traffic.

This weekend the Independent on Sunday revealed that a group including Kent County Council, Eurotunnel, the police and Highways England have issued transport minister Andrew Jones with a report calling for some £295m to be invested to ease the congestion and disruption created by Operation Stack.

The report calls for the cash to be used to give the M20 a two-way contraflow capability and an additional coast-bound lane. It also calls for £8m for a holding area to park 1,000 heavy-goods vehicles every time Operation Stack is put into practice

Prime minister David Cameron is also facing calls to ensure the French government delivers compensation to drivers affected by the disruption.

Interim Labour leader Harriet Harman said Mr Cameron needed to use his ongoing negotiations with French president Francois Hollande to request compensation that ‘covers all losses’ for British businesses and families.

‘Over the last few days, your approach has been devoid of any serious solution to the crisis,’ Ms Harman added. ‘I hope that you will now undertake the urgent diplomatic effort with France and our other European partners to bring the crisis to a close.’

Labour’s shadow immigration minister warned today that the Government ‘seriously need to get a grip’ on the situation at Calais with a ‘careful and considered international response’.

A meeting of the emergency committee COBR on Friday saw the Government committing to fund additional fences and Border Force teams to ‘further boost security’ in France.

A Number 10 spokesperson said alternative parking zones were being pursued to alleviate transport pressures in Kent, with a temporary parking freight overspill at Ebbsfleet and increased ferry capacity on different routes being explored.

‘The prime minister reiterated that everything that can be done will be done to ensure the security of our borders and alleviate the disruption on both sides of the Channel,’ the spokesperson added.

However the RHA condemned the Government’s response as ‘piecemeal’, warning that measures to raise security in isolated sections would ‘only divert migrant attention onto trucks on the approach roads waiting to board’.

CEO Richard Burnett said: ‘I fear that the current situation in Calais and the surrounding area is about to become a disaster. This problem requires a strategic security solution. But what we’ve had is a series of small steps.

‘Only the deployment of large numbers of security-trained personnel to segregate freight drivers from the migrants will allow for the free passage of goods and ensure the safety of our drivers.’

 
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