Months of Operation Stack problems ahead

IT could be months yet before changes are made to the controversial system for handling lorries when Britain's biggest port is closed, it was claimed today.

IT could be months yet before changes are made to the controversial system for handling lorries when Britain's biggest port is closed, it was claimed today.

Highways Agency officials said they were unable to say when a solution would be put into action.

All they could offer after the A14 was again turned into a giant lorry park, leaving truckers and motorists fuming and frustrated, was a wet and windy statement about what happens when gales close the Port of Felixstowe.

One haulage industry though source said it could be the autumn before the changes are made.

“We understand there is going to be a lot of publicity about how it will work, new signs are needed, and they may not bring it in until the autumn windy season,” said the haulier.

“Really it needs to be done as soon as possible - the drivers are getting the stick for what is happening and it really isn't their fault.”

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After seven months of talks on a solution - details of which were revealed by the Evening Star in June last year - no-one seems to be able to say when the changes will be made.

A spokeswoman for the Highways Agency said: “When high winds are forecast the Port of Felixstowe police e-mail all stakeholders advising that the port has shut for container traffic due to the high winds.

“The Highways Agency are aware of the tailbacks which resulted from Operation Stack being put into place on Tuesday night and are currently working with the port, local authorities and the police to look at ways of improving Operation Stack.”

But the agency could not say when it would happen - or what work is left to do.

Under the new system, lorries will be directed to park on the old A45 at Levington with trucks directed in and out via the Seven Hills interchange.

All drivers will be issued tickets - and only those drivers with tickets will be allowed into the port when it reopens.

The changes will be coupled with a vehicle booking system (VBS), currently undergoing trials, to restrict the number of vehicles arriving at the port each hour - helping to spread its workload throughout the day.

Do you think parking lorries at Levington is the best solution? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

FASTFACTS: VBS

At the moment more than 4,000 lorries visit Felixstowe port each day - numbers will grow by more than 50 per cent as the dock expands in the next decade.

Of those 4,000, more than 1,600 arrive within a six hour period - the peak coming between 4pm and 7pm each day, even though the port is open 24 hours a day.

Under the new VBS drivers will be asked to pre book a container delivery or collection time and will be allocated hour long time slots for their visit.

After negotiations with port users it has been agreed not to charge for peak period bookings, but there will still be a fee of £21 for truckers failing to turn up in the allotted time.

There will be an exchange system set up to allow hauliers to swap slots if their drivers encounter problems on the road and get delayed.