Plans revealed in government yesterday showed that the M26 will be closed every night for six weeks in order to convert it into a lorry park in the instance of a no deal Brexit to allow for customs and checks delays to not stop regular traffic flow.
Both ministers and manufacturers are worried that in the case of a no deal Brexit there will be long queues for freight vehicles. Highways England confirmed yesterday that they had been asked by the Department for Transport to look at how the M26 in Kent could be modified to allow for holdups at Dover.
Something similar is already in place on the M20 to allow lorries to park on a 13 mile stretch between Junction 9 at Maidstone and Junction 8 at Ashford. The northbound carriageway remains open, but in contraflow, while the southbound is shut to allow for lorries to pass through.
Increased border checks mean that an extra two minutes added onto a check could cause delays up to 17 miles, Dover port officials have said. The current temporary solution on the M20 is not a viable long-term solution according to local MPs and council executives.
A report released under the Freedom of Information Act said “Customs checks on imports from outside the common market can take between five minutes to 45 minutes per vehicle
Port officials have warned that increasing the average time it takes to clear customs by as little as two minutes could lead to 17-mile traffic jams.”
The plans for the M26
Currently, the M26 has been closed every night for the last week to perform site surveys to understand the work needed to be done. Currently, this is the biggest practical implication that Brexit has had on the UK, so far it has mainly been legislation changes.
A spokesman for Highways England said: “The M26 will be closed in both directions overnight from October 15th to 19th between 10 pm and 5.30 am.
It will also be closed overnight from November 19th to 21st December between 10 pm and 5 am (on Friday night timings are 11 pm to 6 am).
This work is being undertaken by Highways England as part of the Kent Corridor Coordination Group programme of works.
There will be diversion routes for all vehicles and appropriate signage will be in place via M25/M20.”
Gates will be installed in the central reservation to allow for traffic to pass onto the other side of the road and then the northbound carriageway would act as a contraflow to keep traffic moving, while the southbound acts as a car park, holding up to 2000 lorries in case of emergencies.
Highways England also said: “As part of wider resilience planning, Highways England has been asked by the Department for Transport to develop plans to utilise the M26 to hold heavy goods vehicles, should further capacity be required in the future.
“We will be undertaking site surveys on the M26 during October leading to the installation of two gates in the central reservation to support the safe management of freight in the future if needed.”
Objections from MP’s
Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge and Malling, felt as though his constituency was kept in the dark over the works. Speaking to the government, Mr Tugendhat said “It’s come to a pretty pass when a member finds out that works have begun on a motorway to turn that motorway into a parking lot without consultation either with the local community or indeed with surrounding members.
The M26 works started last night. I wrote to [Transport Minister, Chris Grayling] in April asking whether or not this would happen. I was assured that works were not planned and only yesterday was it confirmed to me that Highways England had said that is exactly what was planned, despite having told me the reverse only a week earlier.”
Chris Grayling responded to the comments reassuring Mr Tugendhat that he did not plan for any of the contingency measures to be needed as he was confident “we will reach a sensible agreement [on Brexit].” Mr Tugendhat felt as though there had been no warning and local residents felt as though it would send lots of traffic through small single lane tracks in their villages, causing more disruption than necessary. It was also revealed that planning permission was granted without prior consultation of local residents.
Around four million lorries cross the Channel every year, and so any delay in crossing would cause insurmountable hold-ups and slow down delivery dates of groceries, meaning food won’t be as fresh, medications could take longer to deliver and there will be delays in all sectors.
Do you think these plans are the best way forward? Would you be comfortable using a motorway in contraflow? Let us know below