HGVs wait at Manston as talks to open French border continue

Waiting at Manston Image Jules Serkin

EU Freight destined for Dover Port and Eurotunnel Terminals is still being held in queues and being directed to Manston airfield again today, says Highways England.

HGVs started arriving at Manston last night (December 21) as the French border is still shut to UK travellers and accompanied freight going into the country. Travel from France to Britain is still open.

Almost 900 vehicles were moved to the airfield during the night, There are reported to be 1,500 HGVs on the M20 and Manston airfield combined, far more than the 170 that Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially said were queued. Trucks remaining on the M20 are being moved to Manston today, says the Department for Transport.

EU freight travelling anti-clockwise on the M25 is being told to use the M26, M20 and A249. EU freight travelling clockwise on the M25 must use the M2 and A2.

Directions to Manston have been displayed on both hard signs and variable message boards on the motorway.

Photo Frank Leppard

Operation Brock has been put in place. This 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.

Queues to Dover Photo Shaun Luca

Talks are ongoing between the UK and French government to reopen the border.

County Councillor Karen Constantine said: ““Overnight more than 870 lorries have been parked up at Manston. There is still no confirmation about the facilities for the drivers.

“Whilst temporary toilets are in place, and showers were promised, it is still unclear whether there’s hot and cold water available, or an adequate drivers rest area, or hot and cold food supplies. It vital that all the health and safety needs of the drivers are met.

“As Thanet is in tier four all the requested facilities for drivers need to be in place to assist these workers to avoid infection and transmission. These issues have been repeatedly put to KCC leader Roger Gough, who hasn’t provided any clarification.

“In addition to the lorries on Manston there are also reports of 650 lorries on the M20. As Brexit chaos deepens Thanet is bearing the brunt of a an extremely difficult situation, planning to meet drivers needs should have been put into place. This isn’t just a logistical issue but a matter of public health which could impact the wider Thanet community.”

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 any post EU exit jams at the Port of Dover.

Photo Frank Leppard

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.

Major concerns have been raised about the impact on Thanet of the lorry park.

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.

The DfT say that after entry HGVs visit the Vehicle Entry Check Point before being directed to a space. Provision is  made for refrigerated vehicles by allowing driver access to ‘hook ups’ connected to generators. No idling will be permitted by refrigerated vehicles as engines of all stationary vehicles and auxiliary generators must be switched off while on site.

HGVs carrying hazardous cargoes will be segregated from other vehicles. Spill kits are expected to be available. An emergency contingency plan was being developed and agreed with the emergency services and would include procedures to respond to a major chemical spill or tanker fire.

To limit risks from the Covid-19 virus, the DfT says there is hot and cold running water, hand cleaning facilities and provision of drinking water.

It is understood there are also food vans on site.


  1. As there’s a test centre at the airport too , can’t that be utilised to test the lorry drivers too ! Using flow tests to get a quick result then allow the negative drivers to carry on to France .

    • Boris Johnson has two guiding principles:
      Tell the 1922 committee what they want to hear;
      Tell the popular vote what they want to hear.
      Reality doesn’t come into it at all.

      • What?! You mean…he is telling porkies??

        He told us only 20% of freight was affected and a mere 170 lorries were waiting on the motorway…

        You will be telling me next that Santa does not exist.

  2. There is no charge to TDC. SHP and KCC and Highways are providing everything and paying costs and clearing of site + restoration of the site.

  3. Are stone hill park or whatever they call themselves these days Paying all the rental costs as they have been collecting the rent all this time?

    • I believe there are no rental costs. The government paid SHP for the use of the site in a contract that has been renewed twice already. SHP provided the costs of preparing the site and putting in the facilities for drivers. There are no charges to the drivers for being told to use the sites in Kent. Those using Manston are in a better position for facilities than those stuck on the M20 with very little. Most Long distance truck drivers take provisions with them and have small cookers and refrigerators in their cabs just in case.

  4. Another fine mess Boris has got us into! What does our MP say about it? He was very keen on Brexit- isn’t this a consequence of his old mate Farage’s propaganda?

  5. Ok so all the HGVs are going to Manston Airport.
    Where are the vans going, they are not being told to go there.
    This morning counted 12 sprinter type vans all with foreign number plates driving through Manston, obviously looking for somewhere sneakily to park up

  6. Whilst I appreciate the need for the lorries to go, the signage, not surprisingly, has been totally inadequate to prevent a steady stream of lorries blocking the road through Acol and Manston villages.

  7. The road through Acol is narrow, with no footpath, and is signposted Not suitable for HGVs. Someone will be injured.

    • The drivers are only doing a job ,they didn’t ask for this . Put yourself in their position when you are sitting at home with a bathroom and full larder.

  8. Thanks Kent Resident for your uodate.
    Am glad they are now doing so.
    I also saw 8 of them in Tesco car park buying supplies ( including a TV, hmmm).
    Hope the food supplies they were buying will be shared with the other drivers stranded.
    Still dont understand why there is 3 or 4 people in the cabs of the minibus???

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