More than 3,000 trucks standing still, effectively blocking 35 miles of a major trade artery costing the industry £750,000 a day. It’s the stuff of nightmares. But that is what has faced operators sending vehicles to the continent over recent weeks with Operation Stack on the M20.
And, of course, the delays are not just in Kent, the problems in France with migrants, striking ferry workers and protesting farmers mean drivers have been spending hours stuck in queues on routes around the Pas de Calais region.
The Freight Transport Association has calculated that the delays on both sides of the channel have been costing the UK logistics industry £750,000 a day.
The Road Haulage Association told the French government it should send troops into Calais to secure the port and channel tunnel terminal, while the FTA has been pushing for a contra-flow system to keep the M20 moving – although the Highways Agency has so far ruled out the idea on safety grounds.
It’s worth remembering that Operation Stack started more than a month ago – the fact that it has gone on so long highlights the UK’s reliance on the tunnel and the Dover-Calais ferries for transport to and from the continent.
Clearly, there are problems involved that can only be solved by cooperation between the British and French governments. It is entirely right that the industry should be pushing the governments to do more, not only to alleviate the impact of the disruption, but to deal with the causes.
But given the history of the problems, there have to be question marks over how far the two governments can go in providing effective solutions, particularly to the migrant issue, which is unlikely just to go away.
It is all too apparent that the risks to supply chains from using the Dover-Calais routes have risen significantly. As a result, companies need to look at how they respond to this disruption as a regular part of their supply chain risk planning, and think strategically about the options available.
Malory Davies FCILT,