FSB: Action on Operation Stack is essential

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Congestion on the M20 and surrounding roads as a result of Operation Stack is becoming unbearable

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has written an open letter to the government calling for action to be taken to limit the impact on industry of Operation Stack - the practice of parking excess freight traffic along several stretches of the M20 in Kent.

FSB national chairman John Allan stated the disruption that is being caused by the significant and long-lasting levels of congestion both on the M20 and surrounding roads means many businesses in the area are suffering.

"Businesses have run out of patience, with the sense of exasperation and the strength of feeling among small firms at an all-time high," he commented.

"We appreciate that not all events, such as strike action in France, are within the government's direct control. But these extreme traffic delays have been a persistent issue for some years with little progress at either local or national level to deliver a fit-for-purpose, permanent solution.

"In the July Budget, the UK chancellor announced a fund for sustained investment in our roads. This is the perfect opportunity for Mr Osborne to direct resources and funding towards a long-term solution in the affected areas in and around the south-east region."

Operation Stack was first introduced in 1988 as a temporary measure to address any backlog of freight vehicles awaiting boarding for cross-Channel services. However, in recent years the initiative has been used far more frequently and in recent months it has become an almost constant.

Vehicles are being stacked along several stretches of the M20, with many parts of the transport network effectively being transformed into overflow car parks for up to 3,000 heavy goods vehicles awaiting travel to the continent.

This is a situation that cannot continue, with the FSB intent on ensuring small businesses across the region no longer have to put up with the massive amounts of congestion that Operation Stack is causing.

As such, the organisation has welcomed the suggestion for the creation of a new contraflow system that will enable traffic to continue to move on these busy sections of carriageway where Operation Stack remains in effect.

While this is more of a short-term measure to get traffic flowing once more, it is something the body believes would be an extremely positive development for the region in general. However, with companies across the south-east losing out on vital trade opportunities, a long-term positive solution to this problem is now also needed.

Mr Allan concluded in his letter to the government that the FSB remains open to working with ministers and members of the transport sector to resolve this issue as swiftly as possible, as a failure to do so runs the risk of jeopardising the nation's ongoing economic recovery.