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Highways England should dismantle Operation Brock now

April 11, 2019 9:59 AM
Originally published by Liberal Democrats on Kent County Council

Operation Brock, the contraflow on the M20 between junctions 8 & 9, has been in place for just over 2 ½ weeks. The scheme was put in place by Highways England in anticipation of a disorderly, no-deal Brexit at the end of March. With Brexit having been delayed till the end of October, Brock is not needed and should be dismantled ahead of the Easter break.

Lorries on BrockIn the past couple of weeks there have been several incidents on this contraflow resulting in lane closures or full closure of the motorway. Fortunately, there appear to have been no serious injuries. But the closures have had a serious impact on the A20 and other roads in the area and frequently cause congestion within Ashford and Maidstone town centres.

One such incident lasted 13 ½ hours and on other occasions it has taken 2 hours or more to recover broken down vehicles blocking the carriageway.

There are a number of significant concerns about the design of the Brock contra-flow. The lanes are very narrow and bounded by steel barriers with no verges nor any refuges. So, broken-down vehicles and, crucially, their passengers, are stuck in the carriageway until they have been recovered. But there is no overhead signage to warn drivers of any obstruction in the carriageway ahead. Meanwhile, there is no restriction on HGVs using the outside lane.

Rob Bird, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group at Kent CC, has written to Jim O'Sullivan, the CEO of Highways England, setting out these serious safety concerns. The issues were also raised by Liberal Democrat, Baroness Randerson in the House of Lords on Monday.

Rob Bird

"The design and operation of Brock is fundamentally flawed", comments Rob. "We are very fortunate there has not been a serious incident so far but there is no need for Highways England to take any more risks.

"Brock was intended to handle the backlog of lorries awaiting clearance for the Channel Tunnel and the Dover-Calais crossing. With Brexit delayed, this should no longer be an issue.

"Highways England need to remove this dangerous and unnecessary contra-flow now, ahead of the Easter break when we can expect much more tourist traffic passing through Kent."

Update at 7pm on 11th April: Highways England have confirmed that Brock will be lifted in the next few days, so in time for Easter. Coastbound lanes will be completely clear but the steel barrier will be left in place down middle of the westbound lanes. Consequently, only two westbound lanes will be open and they will be restricted to 50mph. This will be very frustrating and dangerous. We will be pressing Highways England to think again.