Cross-Channel delays prove costly amid calls for decisive action

As news relating to extended delays for freight services via the ports of Dover and Calais continues apace, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has stated that the cost for the UK logistics industry per day is a staggering £750,000.

Add the repeated disruption to Channel Tunnel services, with migrants repeatedly being removed from the Eurotunnel terminal, then the cost escalates still further.

FTA also identify that the problems in France – migrants trying to gain entry into the UK, striking ferry workers and protesting farmers – mean that hapless drivers are spending many long hours stuck in queues in Operation Stack on the M20 in Kent and on routes around the Pas de Calais region.

James Hookham, FTA deputy chief executive, commented: “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.  This is the country’s GDP and export standing still in these horrendous queues caused by the situation in Calais.

“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.”

On what is always the busiest weekend of the year for cross-Channel services, the situation is looking chaotic at best.  With trucks remained stranded in a 35-mile queue on the M20, Kent County Council hosted a European Gateway Strategic Delivery Group meeting in Maidstone attended by FTA, the Road Haulage Association (RHA), Eurotunnel, and Kent Police and other organisations.

Following the multi-agency meeting, both FTA and RHA welcomed measures including proposals to improve Operation Stack, which according to Kent police will remain in place until Sunday.  Ann Barnes, Kent’s police and crime commissioner, described the ongoing situation as a “chronic national problem” while insisting that Kent taxpayers should not pick up the bill.

The RHA also called for a “more determined, holistic and co-ordinated approach” on both sides of the Channel and for the French and UK governments to establish an “authoritative panel to tackle road haulage and related supply chain issues relating to the ferry and tunnel crossings at the Dover Straits.”

Commenting on the volatility of the current situation, Richard Burnett, the RHA’s chief executive, said: “This is a crisis and demands swift and dramatic action.  It appears that the Tunnel is being laid siege to by many hundreds of people desperate to get to Britain.  Tragically, migrants are being killed and our members are being subject to a daily gauntlet of intimidation and long expensive delays.  It is also totally unacceptable that the people of Kent should bear this burden.

“I re-iterate my call for the French government to put their military into Calais to secure the port and the Tunnel terminal if the police are unable to do so on their own.  By taking this decisive action, one of the main causes of Stack will be reduced.”