HGVs have started arriving at Manston as the French border remains shut to UK travellers and accompanied freight going into the country. Travel from France to Britain is still open.
Around 30 lorries are understood to be currently parked on the airport site with Highways England saying any HGVs which arrive in Kent tonight will be diverted to Manston to park.
Operation Stack was implemented on the coastbound carriageway of the M20 between Junctions 8 and 11 yesterday. It was put in place as a contingency measure following the French government’s announcement it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK for 48 hours as of last night (December 20), and the subsequent closures of the Port of Dover and Channel Tunnel.
A special development order allows use of the Manston site as part of the Kent-wide Operation Fennel to hold up to 4,000 HGVs to help cope with possible post EU exit jams at the Port of Dover.
The deal with the Department of Transport for the site to continue to be designated as a ‘EU exit’ lorry park has been extended until the end of June 2021. After this it is expected that full custom controls will be in effect by July, negating the need for further use of the site,
Under the Operation Fennel plan, the A299, Manston and the A256 would be used to manage lorries heading for the Port of Dover if congestion builds up on the M20. This is as a result of the new border controls due to come in force at 11pm on 31 December 2020.
Major concerns have been raised about the impact on Thanet of the EU exit lorry park provision at the Manston.
Issues raised at a council meeting last month included fears for the risk to lives because of a potential blocking of the road network to QEQM Hospital and to routes for Ashford hospital and the overwhelming of health services if a Covid outbreak occurred at the lorry park which can hold up to 4000 HGVs – equating to a possible 8,000 drivers.
Fears that a fire incident could spread out of control were also aired by Cllr Paul Moore.
Operation Brock is being set up tonight (December 21) on the M20 motorway as part of a plan to keep traffic moving. It involves using a contraflow road layout on the M20 London-bound carriageway between junctions 9 and 8 (from Ashford to Maidstone) and directing lorries heading for mainland Europe onto the coastbound carriageway, where they can be queued if necessary.
A long concrete moveable barrier is put in place to allow the contraflow to happen safely.
Operation Brock will replace Operation Stack.
Operation Brock opens up more of the road network in Kent because it means traffic can continue to move in both directions on the M20, whereas Stack effectively closes it to coastbound traffic.
— Highways England (@HighwaysSEAST) December 21, 2020
To make sure the barrier is deployed safely, the M20 will be closed coastbound between junction 7 (for Maidstone) and junction 9 (Ashford), and London-bound between junctions 9 and 8 (Maidstone East), overnight tonight (8pm to 8am). The M20 will reopen by 8am Tuesday morning with the new road layout in place.
Hauliers are advised to avoid travelling to Kent as disruption could last for several days.
Photo Frank Leppard
Talks are currently underway to find a solution and enable the travel ban to be lifted.
Today Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Working with the Kent Resilience Forum, Kent County Council and Highways England, we’ve activated our long-prepared plans, with the result that we have already been able to reduce the number of lorries waiting on the M20 from 500 to 170.
“The site at Manston Airfield is ready to cope with any overflow. And, of course, we are working with our friends across the Channel to unblock the flow of trade as fast as possible.
“The Government at all levels is communicating with our friends in Paris I have just spoken to President Macron – we had a very good call – we both understand each other’s positions and want to resolve these problems as fast as possible.”
#ManstonAirport now 8.30am #operationBrock #Covid19UK let’s hear it for the poor lorry drivers- who are stuck here / & what about the #foodwaste on other side of the channel #salads #fruit perishable pic.twitter.com/SZw6tHHfXa
— jules serkin (@julesserkin) December 22, 2020
The PM added: “I want to stress that we in the UK fully understand the anxieties of our friends about Covid, their anxieties about the new variant (of covid), but it is also true that we believe the risks of transmission by a solitary driver sitting alone in the cab are really very low. And so we hope to make progress as fast as we possibly can.
“These delays only apply to a very small percentage of food entering the UK, and as British supermarkets have said, their supply chains are strong and robust, so everyone can continue to shop normally.”
About 10,000 lorries a day travel between Dover and Calais during peak periods like Christmas.
Operation Brock will remain in place until further notice.