Tensions rising as Manston airport site reaches freight holding capacity

Manston lorry park at capacity in December Photo @Louis McLaren

Tensions are rising as freight drivers arrive at Manston in a bid to receive a lateral flow covid test but are being redirected to Operation Brock – a contraflow road layout on the M20 London-bound carriageway between junctions 9 and 8-  because the airfield site is now full.

Proof of a negative test is needed before drivers can travel into France.

Those on the M20 will be tested in situ. Testing will be supported by the military.


Euro Tunnel has issued a message saying: “Operation Brock is in place on the M20 where tests for all drivers are being carried out by British Health authorities. Drivers tested negative can then reach our terminal. Positive ones will be looked after by British authorities. If positive is confirmed after a second PCR test, they will have to isolate for 10 days in the UK where accommodation will be provided. Customers who arrive on our terminal without a negative test will be refused carriage.”

Unrest has also broken out among those already parked at the site with perimeter fencing broken down earlier today and protesting drivers bringing A299 traffic to a standstill.

Video Samuel Watson 

One Kent Police car is also reported to have sustained damage during the disturbance. Police say no arrests have been made but enquires will take place to identify those responsible.

The Manston airport holding site, which has been in use since Sunday night, is at capacity with 3,800 trucks and tempers are flaring.

Photo Gary Mills

Freight is currently parked there due to the closure of the UK-French border on Sunday night. The border reopened from midnight last night but drivers need a negative lateral flow covid test result before they can travel.

Rail, air and sea services resumed this morning (December 23), with all people travelling from the UK into France required to show proof of the negative test taken within the previous 72 hours.

The protocol agreed with the French Government will be reviewed on December 31, but could run until January 6. All lorry drivers, irrespective of nationality, will require the lateral flow test.

This can detect the new strain of COVID-19 and provide results in around 30 minutes, rather than the 24 hours required after a PCR test.

The French government will also carry out sample testing on incoming freight to the UK.

There are also reports of drivers heading to the walk-in test site at Margate and resulting distress on finding those tests are PCR and so require 24-48 hours before results are issued.

Photo Del Moorcroft
Photo Dan Thompson

A DfT spokesperson said: “As of 9.30am this morning there were 632 HGVs in Operation Stack, 610 HGVs in Operation Brock, and 3,800 vehicles at Manston. As remaining capacity at Manston is being reserved for testing facilities, any new lorries that are arriving are being directed to Operation Brock.

“We continue to urge hauliers not to travel to Kent until further notice as we work to alleviate congestion at ports.

“Testing has started.”

Standstill this morning Photo via Steve Carley

A Kent Police spokesperson said: “Kent Police received reports in the morning of Wednesday 23 December of disturbances involving individuals in both Dover and at the DfT-run lorry holding facility at Manston who are hoping to cross the Channel.

“One man has been arrested for obstructing a highway in Dover and remains in custody.

“Officers on the ground at both locations are working with partner agencies to make sure those hoping to travel to the continent adhere to the latest Government travel requirements regarding Covid testing.

“Kent Police continues to work with partner agencies to make sure those hoping to cross the Channel are informed of the latest procedures and requirements.”


The A299 Thanet Way is blocked and lorries are backed up to the Minster roundabout with the road between Minster and Jentex closed. Laundry Road is also blocked with HGVs,

Thanet Way near St Nicholas-at-Wade Photo Carl Hudson

The road is closed at Spitfire Way.

County Councillor Karen Constantine said she has requested a site visit to check driver welfare. She said: “For many months I have been raising my concerns about the impact of the use of Manston as a giant lorry park. My worse fears are now being realised. Thanet is rapidly becoming gridlocked impeding access to both QEQM, William Harvey and Kent and Canterbury hospitals. The road blocks are also creating delays for workers in essential services such as the NHS, care work, and the staff who have been deployed to get Covid testing underway are also hindered by the traffic jams. Meaning the lorry drivers will have to wait even longer to get results and to get going.

Laundry Hill Photo Pete Barnett

“It seems to have been completely forgotten that for many of the drivers struck in this blockage Christmas is tomorrow, December 24th. Especially for the polish drivers.  No wonder drivers are protesting, they are desperate to get back home to get their families.

“Kent County Council have really failed to understand the human side of this crisis. The emergency contingency planning has let a lot of people down. I hope now that the army are involved, with their superior logistics, Covid testing can quickly get going and we can get these workers back on the road.

“I have requested a visit to the site to check the conditions and welfare of the drivers and I am awaiting permission.”

Photo Pete Barnett

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,


  1. What a mess, this has not been thought through properly! Where are the necessary toilet, and washing facilities? What food has been made available? Some are only light vans with no sleeping accommodation, its not acceptable drivers can only sleep in their seats! Its probably going to last some time, especially in the New Year, if trade talks with the EU break down! Well done Boris, you blustering fool!

    • Save your angry for elsewhere. You can’t always predict what is happening and everyone involved wants the best. You spreading your anger and stress doesn’t help anyone. Focus on yourself instead of spreading your ick of attitude all over here.

      • Yes I am angry because this should not have happened, and why is our Council Tax money being spent policing this mess, and on other relief measures? Where is the MP for South Thanet, Mackinlay, where is he hiding? He should be looking after the interests of his constituents, but I haven’t seen him on the news! Well done Karen, at least someone is showing some humanity.

        Manston was allocated as an emergency vehicle park long ago, so why was it not thought necessary to provide sanitation, food, and probably sleeping accommodation, because many vehicles will not have bunk beds! Try sleeping upright in van seat for a few days, and you will see what I mean!

    • I just feel so sorry for the poor drivers. Get Boris out of Downing Street and into a lorry in Manston – let’s see how long he lasts

    • The government’s had plenty of time to organize lorry park plans. The chaos of leaving the EU has arrived a week early, that’s all.

    • …for showing leadership and protecting his country from a potentially dangerous variant of Covid?

      Would be nice if the Tories had done that a week ago, or a month ago, or two months ago, or at any point in the past year!

  2. Manston was never intended to be used as a lorry park in conjunction with covid and until yesterday there was no requirement for a negative covid test to cross the channel.
    Not sure anyone has a crystal ball that would have foretold whats happened. Just imagine how much more of a mess it would all have been if Manston was not available?
    As a matter of interest when does a protest become a riot?

  3. Let us not forget that this problem was caused by the French Government and in particular President Macron, it was not Boris’ fault.

    Let’s ensure every driver is made aware of this and ensure that the French Government picks up the bill for the tests and police time

    • (I’m the other Andrew, BTW)
      I don’t see what’s wrong with France closing its borders to minimise spread of the new variant. If we’d all done like New Zealand did in the first place, CV would be largely sorted.
      Apropos Manston:
      If you’ve got several 1000 drivers cooped up for more than an hour or two, they will definitely need lots of portaloos. Much longer than that, and there will be a need for water and food.
      A Seik organisation in Kent has managed to dish up hundreds of meals, as has a Thanet football club.
      Why can’t our government cope?

  4. With all these lorry drivers now mixing and not keeping any social distance, it only needs one of them to have Covid and before we know it, there will be a huge outbreak. I am sure that most of these drivers would have simply got the ferry/tunnel, driven off in Calais and driven to their destination as quickly as possible. Thank you President Macron for not thinking this through. And yes, we should be sending France the bill for all the expenses we are now incurring.

  5. Soloution very simple. Dont let any further non uk truckers into the country without a test in Calais on the day of travel. They then have 72 hours to drop their load off and get back to France before their test runs out. Lets see how calais copes with the queues.

    • Probably OK, because Calais and Dunkirk are huge sites and not cut into the side of a cliff, as with Dover.
      Stop making excuses. This was discussed many times at length and the Kent Resilience forum is supposed to be just that and not a lot of clucking hens, trying to blame each other or better still the French.
      When will you blinkered nationalists try to be true patriots, by upholding Magna Carta, the 1688 Bill of Rights and the ECHR, instead of being petty populists with no ideas or plans for the future.

  6. So lorry drivers get tested at manston than leave for dover to join the que at dover. Yet they are t testing the driversxat the front of the que at dover. So the ones at the front have to lose their place to drive to manston to get a test. You couldnt make it up !! Need to get the testing to the front of the que surely

  7. Of course, it’s fair to say the French are quite vindictive when they want to be. They play hard ball, but unfortunately it gets results.
    Absolutely sympathise with the drivers. However, how anyone can defend our Government, Boris, Hancock, Shapps, Petel.. is beyond incomprehensible.
    Could not a group of kindergarten pupils take control and organise our own country better? Think about it – this situation is so dire it is surely a pre-rehearsed scenario with a fully agreed, mutually beneficial outcome: whatever that is? And therein lies the ruse, fathom it out and you too can win a prize…

  8. Brewery & big party comes to mind.
    DfT and KCC signed off the arrangements at Manston as being safe and secure for 4,000 lorries. Regardless of COVID, 4,000 lorries with at least 4,000 drivers need more than ‘225 toilets and urinals’, and they need washing facilities, food and drink.
    And be careful if you take a walk in the woods next to the M20!

  9. Well, as a dummy run for what was supposed to be opening in January it is has proven what we all thought-it is a total joke with no logistical planning. Feel sorry for anybody who is starting work there next month.

  10. This situation is a joke, the French closed the borders, the UK helped Manston has toilets and facilities, has anyone seen what our boys and girls have the other side?, I have not seen anything on the news.

    I had to pick my car up from Canterbury today or not get it back until next year as garage closing, had 3 lorry drivers pull out on me, trying to block the road and ignored the rules of this land.

    These scum bags should take it up with the French, sooner we are out of Europe the better, very short memories they are a disgrace, let the tear gas flow and why do they feel the need to sound their horns?, the French wankers wont hear it!

    Fuck off off back to Europe you WANKERS, DON’T WANT OR NEED YO

    • Oh dear me Terry. Our companies in the UK would grind to a very quick halt if there were no trucks from the EU. Do some research instead of blaming others for our mistakes in this covid crisis. They are not all French either. Our government has no idea about welfare for these drivers. Perhaps the parts for your car came to the UK via one of these trucks. Never mind take a big calm down sigh and be thankful drivers spend days away from home keeping our companies and shops supplied. They are not the wankers, we are.

  11. Incompetent governments lack of structure comes home to roost. We should have stayed locked down in November to reduce numbers but no. Boris knows better than Europe do went his own way. So here we are with all the wrong reasons for having the worst record on u turns and deaths and lies from HQ liars indeed. Out with these charlatans and bring on the next generation who will see that being with Europe is a far better option

  12. The tories never needed a real contingency plan because there was always going to be a last minute deal which makes boris look like the hero resd the daily express in the morning and weep.

  13. Ok, we can all now see, that we are not prepared for Brexit.
    Operation, Stack, Brock, Brock Manston and whatever is not going to be enough.
    What has happened in the last 7 days, has been a new, new of what has happened this year.
    Covid, then a new variant, hence foreign borders shutting us out.
    Please, dont think I am criticizing the lorry drivers, I understand their wishes to get home for Xmas. But, since Saturday, they have all been told, not to travel to Kent.
    That in itself tells them, they wont be getting home. If they had parked up, around the Country, in other places, where they could have facilities, then this calamity at Dover and Manston would have been easier to control.
    It has been a shit year, snd we have all had to make sacrifices.
    Once the announcement was made on Saturday, you knew you wasnt getting home, but you all drove to Kent anyway.

  14. To those of you who insist on making yhis political.
    I am neither pro Boris or anti Boris, but, in light of what has happened this year, can you think of someone, put in his position, that could do any different, or as much.
    No previous PM, has had to deal with something like this.
    The Gov, has thus far provided , JRS grants, loans etc, etc. Whilst other leaders may hVe had other ideas, do you honestly think they would have done more.
    Do you hand on heart think that Corbyn, could have handled this. Keir Starmer, on the day he was voted Labour Leader, said it was about working together, not criticizing each other, yet all he has done since being Voted in is dig out Boris.
    No leader, Tory Labour, whatever, should have to make these decisions, but someone at the top of the ladder hS to. We as Rnglishmen, and Englishwomen need to respect and understand that decision and comply.
    What next, the army start patrolling the streets to make sure you are staying indoors.
    Be real people, stay safe, comply with the guidelines and hopefully look foreard to a future with your loved ones in the not to distant future.

  15. It was the french that closed the border not boris – yes it’s bad but the NHS mobile testing teams have been testing the M20 and the air strip since 0700hrs this morning trying to get them moving again.

  16. Very wise words Carl.
    I dont think Keir Starmer could do any better, for a start he would have to get up off his knees!

  17. Just been up the a299 and lorrys are using the inside lane to park on. I have no problem with at all, feel really sorry those those drivers.

    The one think that’s been bugging me is that Manston is going to be used as a lorry park as from the 1st January 2021. So when were they planning to put the infrastructure in place for this ? If the infrastructure was in place in good time for the 1st January than every thing would have been in place for those drivers now.
    I am guessing that the company with the contract was planning on putting in the infrastructure over the Christmas holidays, toilets, showers food etc, shame they were leaving yo the last minute. Or perhaps they is going to be no infrastructure for the drivers and just loads of money being given the the company that probably is owned by a MP’s mate allegedly. For a site which is planned as a lorry park, boarder crossing they wasnt much work going onto turn it into one !

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