The case for building a vast lorry park costing £250m as an alternative to parking lorries on the M20 in Kent through Operation Stack, has not yet been made, according to MPs.
Ministers want to see the sun set over Operation Stack
The Transport Select Committee said ministers are right to seek a solution to the level of disruption caused by the repeated use of stretches of the M20 in Kent to park lorries but that more should be done to demonstrate that plans for a lorry park will ‘deliver’.
In a new report, the committee says the Government’s decision to proceed ‘at pace’ with plans for a lorry park has ‘left behind some of the usual best practice when spending such large sums of money’.
It found that the decision was ‘taken hastily’ in reaction to the events of last summer, when Operation Stack was used for longer than ever before.
MPs said last year’s total of 31 days ‘was not unprecedented, but the number of consecutive days was unusual’.
Committee chair Louise Ellman said: ‘The disruption caused by Operation Stack affects many people in Kent but this is not just a local issue. The routes to Dover and Folkestone are important nationally – they carry more than 80% of the road freight entering or leaving the UK.
‘The Government has settled on a lorry park as the best solution but what they are proposing is on a vast scale and could cost up to quarter of a billion pounds.
‘Ministers need to do more in order to justify this spending and it should do more to demonstrate why a lorry park roughly the size of Disneyland in California is better than the alternatives we heard about during our inquiry.’
She added: ‘We are not saying that the Government should not press ahead with its proposal, only that it has more work to do to persuade us of the business case for this investment.’
Ministers have set aside £250m to build a permanent lorry park near junction 11 of the M20, capable of holding around 4000 large goods vehicles.
They called on ministers to demonstrate the necessity of building the lorry park, including:
- the cost-benefit ratios of alternatives
- whether it is a proportionate and appropriate solution
- the environmental and social costs
- the value of any benefits that it will bring locally and to the UK economy
- the long-term costs of operating, maintaining, renewing and, eventually, decommissioning it.
A DfT spokesperson said: 'We are acutely aware of the impact Operation Stack has on residents and businesses. It is right that we find a permanent solution and we’re determined to keep Kent moving. That is why up to £250m was made available to build a lorry park which could take lorries off the county’s roads in the event of disruption.
'Highways England received more than 1,000 responses to its public consultation on this issue and we will announce a decision on the preferred site soon.'