Tomorrow (January 1) marks the end of the EU transition period, bringing with it changes to the way businesses operate and how people travel to the continent.
As well as leaving the EU single market and customs union, the coronavirus pandemic means anyone travelling from the UK must have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of travelling.
These rules by the French government are expected to remain in place until January 6.
Kent County Council Leader Roger Gough said: “It’s been a very long year of uncertainty, upheaval and change and as 2020 comes to an end, we welcome 2021 and a set of new challenges.
“Although the government now has an agreement with the EU, it is vital that our businesses and residents understand the changes tomorrow will bring.
“For months we have been supporting the government by helping businesses get ready for the new trading agreement – deal or no deal there were always going to be things businesses would have to change.
“We have also been working hard with government and local partners to prepare traffic management in Kent for any disruption at the Channel ports.
“Through the Kent Resilience Forum, we worked alongside the Department for Transport, Highways England, and Kent Police to agree a single plan, Operation Fennel, to minimise the impact and we’re confident in those plans to minimise disruption.
“We are, however, still urging people to ensure they’re ‘border ready’ and both tourist and HGV traffic should be prepared for queues. Please make sure you check your route before you travel and take food and water and any medicines you need in case of traffic disruption.
“We now have Coronavirus thrown into the mix, meaning anyone leaving the UK for Europe must ensure they have a negative test taken within 72 hours of leaving the country. If you don’t, you will not be able to travel.”
Hauliers should use the government’s Check an HGV is Ready to Cross the Border service and get a Kent Access Permit if they plan to travel via Port of Dover or Eurotunnel.
If you are not intending to leave the UK, you do not need to get a Kent Access Permit.
Operation Brock, the Highways England traffic management system on the M20, is now in operation meaning both coastbound and London bound carriageways are open for use, even if Operation Fennel is stood up.
Operation Fennel is a series of steps that can be escalated to deal with traffic should there be issues at the port or Eurotunnel, starting with TAP on the A20 holding up to 200 lorries; Brock M20 holding up to 2,000 lorries; Manston holding up to 4,000 lorries; TAP A256 holding up to 450 lorries; and Sevington holding up to 1,200 lorries.
Ebbsfleet International and Waterbrook will be used to manage HMRC customs clearance.
Mr Gough added: “With these plans in place, Kent can remain as open as much as possible with the current coronavirus restrictions, and our priority is to keep traffic and goods moving and to ensure people can go about their lives as normally as possible.
“We have been given temporary powers which will act as a deterrent to any HGV driver not following the traffic management, meaning we can clamp and fine those drivers which we hope will ensure that compliance is greater, meaning key routes on Kent’s road network are kept clear.
“Though we have worked hard on traffic management plans in conjunction with our partners, we cannot guarantee there will not be a certain amount of freight turned back from the Port of Dover, Eurotunnel or from the Manston or Sevington sites if paperwork is not in order.
“If this is the case HGV’s are expected to return to their base of operation but it seems more likely they would simply move onto the local road network and wait to become ready – these powers help highlight that this is not acceptable.”
In the event of disruption to the transport network, businesses and residents should visit the below social media sites for up to date information and travel advice:
Kent County Council Twitter: @Kent_cc
KCC Highways Twitter: @KentHighways
Port of Dover Travel Twitter: @PoD_travelnews
Eurotunnel Twitter: @leshuttle
Medway Council Twitter: @medway_council
Highways England South East Twitter: @HighwaysSEAST
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