Had I been a lorry driver stranded on the M20 yesterday, I doubt I’d ever be able to forgive the French.
That’s because, due to the industrial action of the employees of Sea France, Britain’s main road towards Dover and the channel tunnel had to be turned into a very long, very thin lorry park. And god only knows how many travellers that delayed getting down to our primary route to the continent.
It made a surreal sight, at half past nine on Wednesday night, driving back from the Geneva motor show, past mile after mile of lorries parked on what would otherwise be a busy motorway. Passing Ashford, we thought it was just a traffic jam – but then seeing the lorries absolutely nose-to-tail, lights off and curtains drawn, we soon realised it was something else.
And we were still counting the cabs fifteen miles later, past the turn-off for Leeds Castle. Can you imagine how demoralising that must be for a truckie? Operation Stack is what the police call it – and at similar times of gallic industrial strife, they’ve had to instigate it before. I believe the queue grew overnight, and many were still stationary on the M20 as late as yesterday afternoon.
I’ve heard of long lorry queues, some 1500 vehicles long, on the border of the EU and Russia, but one like this, so close to home, made me sick for those it must have affected. It suddenly made me very aware of the level of freight transport our roads carry, and that if we’re ever going to solve our traffic problems, reducing that level will be key.
But most of all, it made me glad that I was going the other way.