Page last updated at 11:19 GMT, Thursday, 6 March 2008

Protest to Sarkozy over M20 chaos

Operation Stack
Operation Stack is to remain in place until the strike ends

The leader of Kent County Council (KCC) is to write to the President of France protesting at the disruption caused by the week-long SeaFrance ferry strike.

Lorries waiting to cross the Channel are parked on the M20, with Operation Stack in place, closing the road between junctions eight and nine.

"This must have cost Kent millions and millions of pounds," said Paul Carter.

A SeaFrance spokesman said the company was working to solve the pay strike by its officers as quickly as possible.

"This has gone on now for seven days," said Mr Carter.

"I intend to write to Mr (Nicolas) Sarkozy to tell him about the massive disruption it is causing to Kent residents, the Kent economy and the broader UK economy."

Things aren't going to improve in the next day or so as far as I can see
SeaFrance director

A caller to BBC Radio Kent said the whole mid-Kent area had been "closed down" by Operation Stack and traffic being diverted on to the A20.

"I have never seen it has bad as this - it is absolutely appalling," she said.

"The rest of the country don't realise what is happening in all the villages along the A20."

"My sons can't get home because the A20 is jammed."

Kent Police said phase two of Operation Stack, from the Leeds Castle to Ashford junctions of the M20, was likely to be in place permanently until the strike ended.

Emergency gates

It said it was the first time in the 20-year-history of Operation Stack that sections of the M20 had been closed for more than three days.

Mr Carter said KCC would soon announce an off-road site which could be used as a lorry park as an alternative to Operation Stack when there was disruption at Dover Port.

"We have found a very do-able site that the Highways Agency and police are hopefully going to support," he said.

"We have got to look at land acquisition and, most importantly, the government has got to fund it."

The Highways Agency has announced it is to install six emergency gates between junctions seven and 12 of the M20 to improve traffic flow in the event of major incidents.

SeaFrance ferry
SeaFrance ferries have been suspended in the week-long strike

The gates, to be installed in the central reservation from Monday, will allow drivers to cross to the opposite carriageway in a contraflow system.

A spokesman said they would be used in major incidents such as accidents, but might also be opened when Operation Stack was in force.

"They won't be used every time, but the situation will be assessed on a case-by-case basis," he said.

In the summer, a £12.6m quick moveable barrier (QMB) will come into operation on the M20 which will allow a contraflow between junctions 11 and 12 when Operation Stack is in place.

SeaFrance said the officers were striking in support of a pay increase equivalent to 25% over three years.

"Frankly, we can't afford it," said UK sales director Bill Laidlaw.

"Things aren't going to improve in the next day or so as far as I can see."

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