A vast lorry park in the southeast is being considered by ministers in an attempt to ease congestion around the Port of Dover.
National Highways, the government agency that runs England’s motorways and A roads, has been instructed to identify a site for a holding area to prevent gridlock on the A20 in Kent.
Queues in recent weeks have regularly stretched for 12 miles, caused by new Brexit customs checks, the supply-chain crisis and a number of cross-Channel ferries being out of service for repair work.
A proposal to build a parking area for 3,600 HGVs beside the M20 at Stanford West was scrapped four years ago.
Speaking to the transport select committee, Baroness Vere of Norbiton, the roads minister, said she had asked National Highways to “look at any and all landholdings to see if we can find any new places”. She said there was “a lot of work going on in the department on how to address this, but one thing is the responsibility of local authorities”.
Kent county council is understood to have set up a task force to find “practical solutions”. MPs have expressed concerns at the number of times Operation Tap, a traffic-assessment project, is being implemented on the A20 leading to the port. Under the measures, all vehicles are restricted to 40mph and lorries made to queue until there is space at the port.
Huw Merriman, chairman of the committee, said the road was “effectively being turned into a lorry park”.
The baroness blamed delays on a the combination of Brexit checks, the end of the pandemic and an increase in business. She said freight demand was “higher than we would expect at this time of year”.
David Brazier, of the county council, said that Operation Tap was being used two to three times a week, which “highlights the fragility of the border-related infrastructure in Kent”.
There is also growing concern about the number of HGV drivers forced to sleep in lay-bys because of delays. They can be fined £300 for “overnighting”.
Rod McKenzie, policy director of the Road Haulage Association, told Transport Infrastructure News that he supported lorry park plans and welcomed the fact that Lady Vere was “listening to concerns about the shocking state of lorry parking facilities in England”.