A UK parliamentary committee has questioned a government plan to spend £250m building a vast truck park in Kent when freight routes across the English Channel are disrupted.
The all-party Transport select committee said the site, which would be able to accommodate 4,000 trucks, required a “full and careful evaluation”, adding that the decision to proceed had been taken “hastily”.
At present Kent Police implement “Operation Stack”, the closure of parts of the M20 motorway for use as a holding area, when cross-channel routes are affected by weather, ferry strikes or migrant protests near Calais in France.
The operation causes massive traffic jams throughout Kent on smaller roads that the trucks would normally bypass. It was used 31 times last year.
Last month construction firm Balfour Beatty was awarded a £130m contract to build the parking area.
Labour MP Louise Ellman, who chairs the committee, said the government needed to explain why its proposal was better than alternatives presented to the committee during its investigation.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
The committee said other options should be considered, including an upgrade of the M20 and/or the A2 and M2 links to Channel services, shifting more freight from road to rail, increasing ferry and train capacity and building a network of smaller truck parks.
In its report, it said it was concerned about the “lack of information” to support the government’s decision.
“The decision to proceed with it was taken hastily in reaction to the events of the summer of 2015. Whilst the specific events of 2015 have been resolved, the current trend of migration, as well as the inherent risk of adverse weather and industrial action across the channel, suggest that a continued risk of combining impactful events must be borne in mind when considering the need for an off-road lorry park.”
“Only now, after the decision has already been taken, is a cost-benefit analysis being attempted. We have yet to see any hard evidence that the analysis that is being carried out will be adequate. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the government, having committed itself to a particular policy, is now seeking to construct a justification for it.”