Striking workers, protesting farmers and migrants in Calais are leaving drivers stranded on the M20 in queues formed as part of Operation Stack, costing the UK logistics industry £750,000 a day, according to the Freight Transport Association.
In the past week, delays have been caused on the French side of the tunnel as a result of closed routes between Calais and southern France due to farmers protesting at the price of milk and meat set fire to tyres and closed main routes between Calais and the south of France. In addition to this, overnight freight services through the Channel Tunnel were suspended after 100 migrants were stopped as they tried to get to Britain and the body of a teenager was found on top of a Eurotunnel train.
FTA deputy CEO James Hookham said: “It is simply not acceptable that industrial action in France can cause such chaos which is impacting on the British economy. Calais has to be made a strike free-zone so that cross-Channel traffic can start moving again and Operation Stack can be lifted as soon as possible.”
Further disruption is expected, according to the FTA, as we enter what it describes as the busiest holiday get-away weekend of the year – as trucks are already stacked in a 35-mile queue on the M20 and cross-Channel services report delays. In response to this, Kent County Council hosted a multi-agency meeting in Maidstone where the FTA, Eurotunnel, Kent Police and other organisations came up with recommendations for government to deal with the situation.
“Given the value of goods lost and the subsequent cost to business, these figures show that Operation Stack is not just an issue for Kent and the south east of England but a serious national strategic problem,” said Hookham. “This is the country’s GDP and export standing still in these horrendous queues caused by the situation in Calais.”
The FTA said the delays have “crippled” freight businesses through repeated closure of the motorway near junctions 8 and 9 of the M20.