A Romanian lorry driver stuck at the Manston airfield site says there are not enough toilets and a lack of proper food and drink.
EU Freight destined for Dover Port and Eurotunnel Terminals is still being held in queues and being directed to Manston airfield after the border with France was shut to UK travellers and accompanied freight going into the country on Sunday night. Travel from France to Britain is still open.
The closure is in place due to fears over the new variant of coronavirus spreading in the south east, according to the French government.
Talks are taking place to find a solution which may include mass testing of all freight drivers with rapid turnaround lateral flow tests being with the help of the military.
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.
Iulian Toroaba has been stuck in the backlog since Sunday and says facilities at Manston are lacking despite Department for Transport assurances that the site would have hot and cold water, toilet and hand cleaning facilities.
Iulian said: “We have 2 bottles of water. We haven’t received any food . No toilets. Regarding our physiological needs, we are using the fields or the lorry’s wheels.”
A source said that although police are doing a ‘fantastic job’ it appeared to be “the blind leading the blind” inside the lorry park. They said there had also been issues with lorries entering the village due to being given the wrong postcode.
The company that has the contract to manage ‘EU exit’ parking at Manston does not officially start work until January 1, they added.
Iulian is hoping talks today (December 22) will find a resolution so HGVs can start making their journey across the Channel.
He said he is desperate to get home for Christmas, adding: “I have a family in Romania and a small child waiting for me at home.”
Friend Svetlana Raisa, who lives in Ramsgate, said she was concerned at the lack of welfare for drivers. She added: “We are trying to get hold of a pass from the Romanian Embassy for volunteers to go in and help with food and water.”
It is understood a food wagon is on site (pictured). Work to prepare the site has been taking place throughout the year and there are portable toilets and shower facilities as well as a shuttle to the main terminal.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said there are 77 toilets on the site and a number of food vans on the way to the airfield now (3.48pm).
A number of locals have also offered t take food and drink to the site.
With the current predicament on our roads, we are pizzas to the drivers stuck at Manston this evening.
Being stuck away from home is never great, let alone at Christmas time
— Ramsgate Football Club (@RamsgateFC) December 22, 2020
These include the Dalby Cafe in Cliftonville and Ramsgate Football Club.
However, Thanet council says donations are not needed, as the Department for Transport would ensure provisions.
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.
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.
It is expected that full custom controls will be in effect by July, negating the need for further use of the site.
But that is of no help to those that are stuck there again tonight, or to locals in Manston and Minster listening to the noise of the trucks (video above).