Highways England has launched Operation Brock, in preparation for the UK’s departure from the EU, as uncertainty continues to hang over Brexit. The plan, which reserves coastbound lanes of the M20 at junctions 8 and 9 for HGV traffic and keeps the middle lane clear for emergency vehicles, kicked into operation yesterday.
FTA policy manager for the south-east Heidi Skinner told The Loadstar she was hopeful the scheme would not have a “detrimental” impact on traffic movements across Kent. “Importantly, it must not be viewed as a long-term solution,” she said. “However, what the implementation highlights is the calamitous lack of long-term parking options for lorries, which is something we’ve been pressing government on for some time. “With the possibility of long-term delays caused by a no deal-Brexit, and the increased red tape this will bring, freight operators must have safe, secure parking for their drivers.”
Changes to the plan allow for the rerouting of lorries to Manston Airfield, as well as closure of the M26 also for use as HGV parking, if necessary. To accommodate these changes, there will be roadworks on the M20 and M26 over the next week as the final preparations and adjustments are made. Highways England project director John Kerner said: “Since Operation Stack in summer 2015, we have been working tirelessly to improve resilience to disruption.
“Operation Brock strengthens this resilience and offers a safe, scalable response to disruption. “It can be used to queue up to 11,000 lorries heading for mainland Europe, while keeping traffic flowing for people living, working and travelling in and around Kent.”
The contraflow is in effect from Junction 8 to Junction 9 at Ashford, with Europe-bound lorries routed down the coastbound carriageway, under a 30mph speed limit. All other traffic is routed down the London-bound carriageway, with two lanes in each direction operating at 50mph.
Highways England added: “The deployment will help to demonstrate Kent’s preparedness for disruption and allow the contraflow to be in place for any traffic disruption in the coming weeks. “Three lanes in each direction could be restored, with a 50mph limit, if Operation Brock is assessed as unlikely to be required in the following weeks.”
However, reports of its launch brought confusion as several papers reported it as merely a trial. This was refuted by Highways England: “Reports of a one-week test are false, it is not being tested and has been rolled out per our commitments to having it in place by the end of March,” a spokesperson told The Loadstar.
“Brexit may be a moveable situation, but it is not easy to put Brock in place, it took about three weeks to erect the steel barriers delineating the contraflow. “This will remain in place for six months, per our instructions from government, but it is reviewable and if there is a delay in Brexit it may be in place longer.”