Port delays on both sides of the Channel are costing the UK logistics industry £750,000 a day according to figures just released by the Freight Transport Association (FTA).
Problems in France with migrants, striking ferry workers and protesting farmers mean drivers are spending hours stuck in queues in Operation Stack on the M20 in Kent and on routes around the Pas de Calais region.
FTA Deputy Chief Executive James Hookham: ““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.”
Yesterday farmers protesting at the price of milk and meat set fire to tyres and closed main routes between Calais and the south of France. Overnight freight services through the Channel Tunnel were suspended after 100 migrants were stopped as they tried to get to Britain and the body of a teenager was found on top of a Eurotunnel train.
More chaos is expected this weekend – the busiest holiday get-away weekend of the year – as trucks are already stacked in a 35-mile queue on the M20 and cross-Channel services report delays.
This morning Kent County Council is hosting a multi-agency meeting in Maidstone where the Freight Transport Association, Eurotunnel, Kent Police and other organisations will discuss the crisis and come up with urgent recommendations for the Government.
Freight businesses near junctions 8 and 9 of the M20 have been crippled by repeated closures of the motorway over the past few weeks as their lorries are repeatedly gridlocked. Some have told FTA the effect could be catastrophic if problems continue.