Operation Stack

Operation Stack

Coordinates: 51°05′33″N 1°05′33″E / 51.0926°N 1.0924°E / 51.0926; 1.0924

Operation Stack
Operation Stack.jpg
Operation Stack being implemented in March 2008
Operation Stack is located in Kent
Operation Stack

Red pog.svg Operation Stack shown within Kent
OS grid reference TR169374
List of places: UK • England • Kent

Operation Stack is the name used by Kent Police and the Port of Dover in England to refer to the method of using sections of the M20 motorway in Kent to park lorries when the Channel Tunnel, English Channel or Dover ports are blocked by bad weather or industrial action, or enforced closure due to fire or derailments in the case of the tunnel. The system has been implemented over 75 times since its inception 20 years ago.[citation needed][clarification needed]



In Kent, lorries are parked on the coast-bound carriageway, with the road closed to all other traffic. Phase 1 involves closing the road between Junctions 11 (Hythe) and 12 (Cheriton),[1] with the A20 providing an alternative route. Phase 2 involves closing the M20 between Maidstone and Ashford (Junctions 8 to 9)[1] with the A20 being used as the diversionary road again. Phase 3 involves closing the M20 London bound between junctions 9 and 8 (Ashford to Maidstone).

This stacking can close the motorway for days at a time,[2] and as a result, Operation Stack has been controversial.[3]


Several options are being considered instead of closing the motorway. They include:

  • To try to combat the disruption, parking the lorries on the Kent County Showground at Detling has been discussed by the Highways Agency, but locals are opposed because the area is very congested with traffic.[4]
  • In 2005, the Dover Harbour Board unveiled a plan to create a lorry park for 1500 vehicles[5] with construction beginning in 2006.[6]
  • In February 2007, it was revealed that Kent County Council has been talking to landowners about buying land for a lorry park.[7]
  • There has been a suggestion from Shepway District Council for a lorry park to the North East of the roundabout at Junction 11, which would be supported by associated development within the Stanford and Lympne areas.[8]
  • A coned contraflow system has been discussed and trialled on the 10.5 miles (16.9 km) motorway section between Ashford and Maidstone, to relieve the pressure on the A20, however it proved costly and slow to arrange, taking two days to set up and two days to remove afterwards.[9] However, the Highways Agency have announced a plan to use Quick Movable Barriers[10][11] to set up a Contraflow so that two running lanes of traffic on the M20 can be maintained.[12]


At the end of January 2007, local Members of Parliament, Damian Green (Ashford) and Stephen Ladyman (Thanet) were involved in a debate, covering the issue of Operation Stack, in the House of Commons. Everyone agreed that stacking was a problem but there were no firm decisions as to any alternatives.[13]

March 2008

On 5 March 2008 continuing industrial action (which had begun in late February) by French workers operating the SeaFrance cross-channel ferry service resulted in Kent Police initiating phase 2 of Operation Stack to manage a freight traffic build-up as a result of delayed ferry services.[14] The industrial action lasted for a number of days with the subsequent backlog of road freight on the M20 causing significant disruption to the surrounding area and roads. The MEP for South East England, Richard Ashworth, and the leader of Kent County Council, Paul Carter, urged French president Nicolas Sarkozy to step-in and resolve the SeaFrance dispute, protesting the difficulties incurred by the county's residents and businesses.[15][16] The long-term nature of the closures was the first time in the 20-year-history of Operation Stack that sections of the M20 had had to be closed for more than three days; businesses in nearby towns reported trade and takings down by up to 50%.[17] As of 13 March, Stack was still operational - the longest single time it has ever been in operation.[clarification needed] The Freight Transport Association estimated the cost of the disruption to be around £5 m as at 9 March.[citation needed] Kent County Council later announced progress with their plans to construct a lorry freight park which would be used for temporary parking in an attempt to mitigate the effects of Operation Stack. This has met with opposition from the borough councilor for Saxon Shore ward where the rest stop would be sited; he accused the County council of "not thinking strategically", not considering the environmental impact properly, and of siting the facility too close to a National Grid facility where he expects the fuel in vehicles to be a danger to a "facility of strategic national importance".[18]

Similar methods elsewhere


In Suffolk, lorries heading for the port of Felixstowe are parked on the old A45 road at Levington. The traffic used to be held on the main A14 trunk road but this was deemed to be too dangerous for other road users.[19] This is implemented when winds exceed 45 miles per hour (72 km/h) as the cranes cannot be operated due to Health and Safety regulations.[20]


A similar method is used on the A751 near Stranraer when the ports of Cairnryan and Stranraer are closed. The whole road is closed to hold HGVs heading for Northern Ireland when needed.


  1. ^ a b "French Strike hits Dover services". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 2005-03-22. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/4370199.stm. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  2. ^ "Police call off Operation Stack". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 2005-03-06. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/4323381.stm. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  3. ^ "Call for Operation Stack to end". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 2005-03-18. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/4359789.stm. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  4. ^ "Showground considered for lorries". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 2005-05-14. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/4546991.stm. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  5. ^ "Lorry park plan for Channel port". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 2005-11-10. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/4423882.stm. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  6. ^ "Port to build four ferry berths". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 9/03/2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/4787318.stm. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  7. ^ "Kent looks at permanent site for Operation Stack". Roadtransport.com (Reed Business Information Limited). 2007-02-01. http://www.roadtransport.com/Articles/2007/02/01/125577/kent-moves-on-bid-for-permanent-parking.html. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  8. ^ "Cabinet Committee Minutes October 2005" (PDF). Kent County Council. 2005-10-24. http://www.kent.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/3D89E3FD-9F74-4012-9478-02FC8E8119FF/0/oct05item4.pdf. 
  9. ^ "Changes to Operation Stack system". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 2005-03-24. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/4377493.stm. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  10. ^ "Quick Moveable Barrier (QMB) Machine". Highways Agency. http://www.highways.gov.uk/roads/projects/14117.aspx. Retrieved 2008-03-14. 
  11. ^ "Barrier to solve Operation Stack". BBC News. 2007-06-25. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/6236088.stm. Retrieved 2008-03-14. 
  12. ^ "QMB to improve Operation Stack". Highways Agency. 2007-06-25. http://www.highways.gov.uk/news/newsroom.aspx?newsid=18190164. 
  13. ^ "Operation Stack raised in Commons". BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation). 2007-02-01. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/6322631.stm. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  14. ^ "Ferry action brings M20 closures". BBC News. 5 March 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/7278699.stm. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  15. ^ "Protest to Sarkozy over M20 chaos". BBC News. 6 March 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/7280854.stm. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  16. ^ "MEP seeks to resolve ferry strike". BBC News. 8 March 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/7285140.stm. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  17. ^ "Police in appeal over M20 chaos". BBC News. 7 March 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/7284155.stm. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  18. ^ "Plans for M20 lorry park revealed". BBC News. 12 March 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/kent/7292248.stm. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  19. ^ "Operation Stack" (PDF). http://www.portoffelixstowe.co.uk/haulier%5Cdocuments%5COperation%20Stack/OperationStackEnglish.pdf. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  20. ^ "Port Prepared For More High Winds". Felixstow TV. 2006-12-06. http://www.felixstowetv.co.uk/news.php?extend.211. 

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