Manston Airfield will be temporarily used as an alternative for freight traffic while there are on-going issues with disruption to cross-Channel services, the government has announced today (4 August 2015).
An agreement has been reached with the owners of Manston Airfield 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 currently lifted (Tuesday) and there has been less disruption in Kent over the weekend, but the introduction of Manston Airfield 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. The priority is to keep traffic and goods moving and ensure people on both sides of the Channel can go about their lives as normally as possible.
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.
“I would also like to thank the maritime sector and Eurotunnel which have been supportive in working to maintain cross channel operations.”
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
Highways England Director of Network Delivery and Development David Brewer said:
“We are committed to working with our partners to keep traffic moving as well as possible on the M20 and to minimise any disruption on surrounding roads in Kent.
“We advise road users affected by Operation Stack to plan ahead and check traffic conditions and advice from travel operators before setting out; to leave plenty of time for journeys and while on the road to listen to travel news bulletins for latest information. We would ask all travellers to particularly look out for local signs and electronic message boards that will guide them to their destinations.”
Kent Police’s Deputy Chief Constable Paul Brandon said:
“We are pleased to support any measures that will ease the pressure on the M20 and those communities and businesses who have been adversely affected by Operation Stack in recent weeks. We have been in a critical situation in Kent since the middle of June and, in that time the situation in Kent has been acknowledged as a very real, national issue.
“Following work by the Department for Transport and Highways England, the option to divert freight bound for Europe to Manston Airfield, whilst very challenging, has become more feasible in terms of resourcing and logistics. Working with more resources than ever, including mutual aid from other police forces, Highways England and other agencies we are all committed to making the plan from the Department for Transport work, to ease the situation caused by the current Stack operation on the M20.
“We will continue to work closely with those agencies and Kent County Council to monitor and review the use of Manston as an alternative interim measure.”
Kent County Council leader Paul Carter said:
“We welcome the decisive action taken by the government on this issue in trialling the new initiative.
“Our principal concern throughout this difficult period has been that we need to keep Kent moving for local residents and businesses.
“It is particularly important we endeavour to keep the M20 open in both directions as far as is possible, and we will continue to impress upon our partner agencies the need to help make this new initiative a success.”