Huge disruption to traffic travelling to Folkestone and Dover at the weekend, when some lorry drivers had to wait in queues for up to 20 hours, has prompted the RHA to renew its calls for a permanent solution to the problem.
The RHA is calling for decisive action to create a permanent contingency site for handling lorries for use when there is disruption crossing the channel.
Director of policy and public affairs at the RHA, Rod McKenzie, said: “Lorry drivers have put up with horrendous queues under the most appalling conditions – being stuck in a traffic jam for 20 hours is a miserable experience for anyone, but for professional drivers who do this run regularly, it’s disgraceful.
“The RHA has repeatedly called for better contingency arrangements with facilities such as toilets for truckers. This is now urgent as this problem is not going away nor is it a one-off. It is time to take decisive action and deal with this long-term problem.”
The RHA says that the site should be used and managed by the police and highway authorities to control and direct the flow of lorries travelling across the Dover Straits.
“We ask that the Department for Transport, BEIS, Number 10, Kent County Council, the police and National Highways urgently work with industry on a specification for a “Channel Contingency Site” and to identify viable locations and options.”
Motoring organisation the RAC is also urging the government to invest in lorry parking to ease the situation.
The RAC called for investment in extra lorry parking with facilities for drivers, instead of relying on what it branded an “inadequate solution of turning a motorway into a lorry park”.
The government, including Welsh Secretary Sir Robert Buckland, blamed the long queues on a lack of French customs staff. “I think one of the issues has been the short staffing on the French customs side. I think that’s had a really acute impact,” said Buckland.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that French passport authorities should have ensured enough staff were in passport booths.
But others have pointed out that Brexit is to blame. Doug Bannister, chief executive of the Port of Dover, said that enhanced passport controls since Brexit mean the average time for a vehicle to be cleared by French officials at Dover has roughly tripled from 25-30 seconds to between 70 seconds and two minutes.
Natalie Chapman, head of policy for London at Logistics UK, stressed that the situation was so bad that some lorry drivers had waited to cross the Channel for “well over 18 hours” in queues with no toilet facilities.