Calais migrant crisis: Manston Airfield will be “temporarily used” to relieve pressure on M20 during Operation Stack

James Nickerson
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The new arrangements prioritise certain goods across the Channel, including quick to market goods (Source: Getty)

The department of transport has announced Manston Airfield will be temporarily used to “provide additional capacity” for cross-Channel freight when Operation Stack is in place.

The disused airfield in Kent will be used as an emergency lorry park, holding freight in the short-term to reduce pressure on the M20 during Operation Stack, the department of transport said in a statement.

While some traffic is diverted, at current lorries travelling to Dover port are “stacked” on a closed section of the M20.

Under the plan, lorries transporting quick to market goods, such as livestock or perishables, are to be given direct access to ferries instead of having to queue in Operation Stack.

Read more: Cameron under fire over Calais migrant crisis: Chaos costing £1.5m a day in Kent as hauliers call for compensation

The statement added:

Operation Stack is currently lifted (Tuesday) and there has been less disruption in Kent over the weekend, but the introduction of Manston Airfield into Operation Stack when required will provide short term additional capacity to help manage freight traffic on its way to Dover Port. It will work alongside the existing Operation Stack to help reduce disruption on the M20.

The priority is to keep traffic and goods moving and ensure people on both sides of the Channel can go about their lives as normally as possible.

With the new measures, freight will be directed when the diversion is in place and holiday-makers will be able to follow clearly signed routes to their destinations, according to the statement.

Transport minister Lord Ahmad said using Manston airfield is an interim solution:

Working together we have found a viable short-term solution to the disruption residents and industry in the M20 corridor from Dover to Maidstone have been experiencing in recent weeks as a result of Operation Stack.

By using Manston Airfield we have secured an interim solution while we work to find a longer term resolution, which meets the needs of the whole of Kent and of course the interests of British industry.

This announcement comes the day after foreign secretary Philip Hammond pledged 100 extra security guards would be deployed in Calais to tackle the ongoing crisis.

Read more: Foreign secretary Philip Hammond says government “has got a grip” on crisis

The government has estimated that up to 5,000 migrants are currently living in Calais, with attempts to enter the Channel Tunnel occurring on a nightly basis.

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