Chaos in Kent as 23 mile stretch of M20 closed due to ferry shortage

Written by on 7 April 2022

Chaos in Kent as 23-mile stretch of M20 closed due to ferry shortage

Traffic on major routes in Kent have been brought to a standstill again due to delays in Channel crossings.

A 23-mile coastbound stretch of the M20 was closed from junction eight (Maidstone) to junction 11 (Westenhanger) to store thousands of lorries heading for the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel as part of Operation Brock.

This is causing chaos on surrounding local roads.

The A20 Roundhill Tunnel is closed under the Dover TAP scheme to prevent HGVs jumping the queue.

Delays to Channel crossings are being driven by the suspension of P&O Ferries sailings after the operator sacked nearly 800 seafarers without notice last month.

This is putting more strain on other ferry operators amid increased demand as many families travel overseas for Easter holidays.

DFDS said P&O Ferries customers will be unable to transfer their bookings onto its Dover-Calais sailings between Friday and Sunday because of a lack of capacity.

Operation Brock involves using a moveable barrier to create a contraflow system enabling lorries to queue and other traffic to keep moving in both directions.

However, the system has been overwhelmed, with Kent hit by long queues every day since April 1 when poor weather also disrupted crossings.

The Port of Dover said in a statement it handled 30,000 departing passengers last weekend, which was a three-fold increase on the total during the corresponding weekend in 2021.

It added it is “expecting another busy weekend” as it urged customers not to arrive before their booked sailing.

Trevor Bartlett, leader of Dover District Council, said the port will be “under severe pressure throughout the busy Easter getaway” as he warned residents to prepare for “some disruption again this weekend”.

He said he has “made it clear” to Kent Police, Kent County Council and the Kent Resilience Forum – a partnership of local organisations and agencies – that “we will not tolerate another weekend of gridlock in Dover”.

The Conservative councillor went on: “For too long, local residents and businesses have had to endure disruption and, quite frankly, deserve better.

“We share your concerns about the impact of gridlock on local businesses and access to vital health and social care for our most vulnerable residents.

“Many are rightly worried about how the emergency services would be able to respond to a major incident when all routes into the town are effectively cut off.”

Ashford MP Damien Green called for changes to be made to Operation Brock.

He told KentOnline: “What we need is to make Brock work.

“We have established that up until now it does work, even in times of stress, because the motorway is kept open.

“Once you close the motorway it makes it impossible, so the Kent Resilience Forum needs to look at what changes need to happen so Brock can cope with what is a very unusual situation, where more than half of the freight-carrying capacity at Dover has disappeared in one time.”

P&O Ferries announced on Wednesday that it is preparing to resume cross-Channel sailings.

A spokesman said: “P&O is looking forward to welcoming back vital services and we expect to have two of our vessels ready to sail on the Dover-Calais route by next week, subject to regulatory sign-off, namely both the Pride of Kent and Spirit of Britain between Dover-Calais.”

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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