A huge 3,600-space lorry park is to help ease traffic chaos on the roads when services across the Channel are hit by delays or cancellations.
The site at Stanford West in Kent will prevent tailbacks on the M20 and surrounding roads if lorry drivers are unable to gain access to the Port of Dover or the Channel Tunnel.
Previously, when cross-Channel services were disrupted, hauliers had to park their lorries on the side of the road until services reopened, under the rules of Operation Stack.
Last summer, Stack was used a record 32 times as a result of the migrant crisis in Calais and the striking French ferry workers, turning sections of the M20 into a HGV park.
READ MORE: What is Operation Stack?
It also prompted calls from the Road Haulage Association for tighter security in around Calais to help keep drivers safe from migrants attempting to reach the UK.
As many as 5,000 lorries were forced to park up, resulting in unprecedented gridlock. Affected businesses had to dispose of perishable cargo – leading to a huge loss of revenue.
Estimates suggest the country’s economy lost around £250 million a day when Stack was enforced, with untold misery caused for other motorists using the affected roads.
Following the disruption, the Government set aside £250m in its Autumn Statement for a solution.
Chancellor George Osborne said: “We are taking bold action to deal with the severe inconvenience suffered by people living and working in Kent when cross-Channel services are affected.
“A long-term solution that will keep traffic moving has been talked about for decades, but now we are delivering it.”
Construction work will now start as soon as possible, with spaces becoming available from next summer, the Department for Transport (DfT) said.
The project will see the eastbound carriageway of the M20 equipped with new entry and exit slip roads to provide direct access to the park in the event that Stack has to be enforced
Stanford West was chosen as the preferred site for the park in a public consultation, in which the majority of participants rejected the alternative site north of junction 11 at Westenhanger.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “Operation Stack is only ever used as a last resort but we recognise the impact it has on roads in Kent, and are determined to deliver an alternative solution.
“The new lorry area by the M20 will deliver better journeys for drivers and will not only support the region's economy but also businesses as far away as Scotland that rely on the M20 to access the Port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel.”