By Daniel Hunter
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on the government to once and for all tackle the travel chaos caused by Operation Stack.
In a letter to ministers, the FSB said the M20 disruption is having a severe effect on the UK economy, causing extreme frustration for small businesses not only in Kent but nationwide too. The Government must recognise that export opportunities are being lost and our tourism trade adversely affected at the height of the travel season, the letter says.
The current system, whereby freight traffic is stacked on to long stretches of the M20, turning chunks of road into parking for up to 3000 lorries, began as a temporary measure in 1988. The FSB said "it is simply unacceptable" that a workable solution has not been planned and implemented in the intervening years.
John Allan, FSB National Chairman, said:
“The effects of Operation Stack have been at their most acute in the last few months, with the system in operation for five out of the last six weeks. On a local level, business meetings have been cancelled, deliveries are late and travel time from home and work is extended. And we have seen the ripple effect rapidly spreading across the country. Many small firms are spending valuable time and money trying to find viable alternatives to honour commitments to their customers, both at home and in continental Europe.
“Businesses have run out of patience, with the sense of exasperation and the strength of feeling among small firms at an all-time high. 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.
“The FSB welcomes the suggestion of introducing a contraflow as a short-term measure but this must be implemented as quickly as possible to ease congestion and get traffic moving again. In the longer term, we simply cannot afford or allow such a major piece of our transport infrastructure to be continually disrupted for long periods of time. We have raised the issue directly with Government, asking them to make solving this issue a top priority. We look forward to seeing concrete plans put in place to address the disruption that is now being felt across the nation.”