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Liberal Democrats on Kent County Council

Ban HGVs from outside lane during Operation Brock, say Kent Lib Dems

October 2, 2018 6:20 PM

Kent Liberal Democrats have called for a ban on HGVs using the outside lane of the M20 during Operation Brock, the controversial traffic management system planned to mitigate some of the traffic chaos caused by Brexit.

If the UK leaves the customs union, the introduction of customs checks at the Port of Dover will Contraflowmassively increase the amount of time it takes for lorries to move through the port, causing a serious bottleneck and huge tailbacks on both sides of the Channel.

The Government's solution, dubbed 'Operation Block', will use the southbound carriageway of the M20 between junctions 8 and 9 to park lorries destined for Europe. Other traffic would be diverted onto the northbound carriageway in a contra-flow system.

Kent Liberal Democrats argue the plan will cause a severe bottleneck, gridlocking Ashford and Maidstone town centres and the surrounding roads. The narrow lanes in the contra-flow may also pose a danger to motorists, particularly if large lorries are allowed to overtake.

In response, Opposition Leader Rob Bird has written to Jim O'Sullivan, Chief Executive of Highways England, calling for a ban on HGVs using the outside lane when Operation Brock is in place.

A similar ban has been in force on the M11 since March 2017.

Rob BirdThe party is also calling for a ban on HGV overtaking on the stretches of the M20 affected by ongoing roadworks. Highways England is carrying out work between junctions 3 and 5 as part of the installation of 'smart motorway' technology.

Drivers also have to contend with work between junctions 8 and 9, being done in preparation for Operation Brock.

As part of the work, the open lanes have been narrowed, leaving little room for the thousands of lorries that use the M20 every day. Despite the 50mph limit in force, motorists have already reported dangerous overtaking manoeuvres by HGVs, as well as left hand drive vehicles straddling both narrow lanes.

Cllr Rob Bird, Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition on Kent County Council, wrote: "As we have seen several times recently, accidents involving HGVs in this stretch of the M20 often result in the temporary closure of the motorway with a devastating impact on traffic congestion in the surrounding area. Yet, with 50mph limits in place, HGV drivers have little to gain from attempting to overtake each other.

"Will Highways England impose a ban on HGVs blocking the outside lane of the M20 between junctions 8 and 9 during the current works and whenever the motorway is operating as a two-lane contraflow under Operation Brock?"

Cllr Bird said: "Kent drivers will suffer enough in the event we leave the customs union, with the county potentially facing permanent gridlock. Frustration is one thing, but drivers should not be put at risk by HGVs performing dangerous overtaking manoeuvres.

It is only right that Highways England does what it can to ensure drivers' safety during Operation Brock, and while this road work is being completed. There is a precedent for banning HGVs from the outside lane during roadworks, and this move will help avoid delays and perhaps even a serious accident."