Stuck talking about Operation Stack

IT IS seven months since a project was launched to stop lorries clogging up the A14 when high winds strike Felixstowe - but today there is still no timetable to put changes in place.

IT IS seven months since a project was launched to stop lorries clogging up the A14 when high winds strike Felixstowe - but today there is still no timetable to put changes in place.

As more high winds are forecast to hit the county the radical changes to Operation Stack, including a vehicle booking system (VBS) have so far proved to be more talk than action.

Drivers have complained bitterly this week as stoppages at the port caused by winds reaching 45mph-plus have paralysed the peninsula with both carriageways of the A14 blocked by lorries unable to get into the Port of Felixstowe.

Yesterday tailbacks stretched nearly nine miles from the port to Seven Hills, with streams of traffic through the Trimley villages, and motorists taking up to 40 minutes to travel from Kirton to Felixstowe town centre.

Head of corporate affairs at Felixstowe port, Paul Davey said there was still no timetable in place for the changes proposed to Operation Stack, run by the Highways Agency and police.

He said: “There have been a lot of details to iron out to ensure it will work.

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“I think it is almost there. There are some details over the ticketing system, particularly for those drivers who will park up in their own yards close to the port, to be resolved and then the timing will need to be considered.

“Before it goes live we will need to have a period of communication with the haulage companies to make sure they understand how it will work.”

It is understood one of the big concerns for organisers is that if the new system is launched and then there is no windy weather drivers would not be prepared when the port closed and would simply revert to the usual practice of queuing outside the gates.

The Highways Agency was unavailable to comment today.

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HOW IT WILL WORK

Lorries will park on the old A45 at Levington, which is parallel to the A14, with trucks directed in and out via the Seven Hills interchange.

All drivers will be issued with tickets - and only those drivers with tickets will be allowed into the port when it reopens in a bid to release manageable numbers of trucks from the parking area down to the port to be dealt with.

In addition, a certain number of “golden tickets” will be issued to haulage yards for a proportion of their drivers, who have chosen to park up at their depots and stay off the road, into the port.

The changes will be coupled with the VBS, which is undergoing trials at the moment and will restrict the number of vehicles arriving at the port during any period - helping to spread the port's workload throughout the day.

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TRUCKERS caught in the queues said “don't blame us” - we are just as frustrated, too.

One Felixstowe driver said: “People always seem to have a go at the lorry drivers, but we are just trying to do our job.

“I don't want to be stuck in a queue, parked on the A14 with my engine off waiting to get into the port - I want to drop my box, pick up another and get away, back on the road again.

“When the port is closed and the lorries arrive there is simply nowhere to go.

“I couldn't get to my yard to park up because I was stuck in the jam.”

The driver said he felt sorry for the police.

He said: “There were police officers but what could they do? There was nowhere off the road to put the lorries.”

One trucker's wife said: “Please spare these drivers a little thought when you're mad, trying to get to work or home - they don't ask to be there.

“When you do get through the traffic you've most probably been fed, watered, been to a toilet and had something to look at rather than the back of a container.

“My partner left home at 5.30am. He then got in the queue and sat there and sat there, on and on for about eight hours with no food, a flask of coffee to last all that time, no toilet, and you can't leave your cab.

“Someone must have a solution to these problems - this is supposed to be Britain's premier port.”

No-one was available from the Highways Agency today to talk about the situation.