Kentish Express Ashford & District
‘Pandemic has helped prevent traffic chaos’
The coronavirus lockdown has so far helped stop the feared roads havoc after Brexit - but a police chief has warned it might still happen.
Traffic gridlock was predicted on routes towards the Port of Dover and Channel Tunnel after the UK left the EU.
But routes to the Channel Ports have not so far clogged up despite fears that they could after the end of the transition period.
However, both police and hauliers say it could eventually happen once traffic levels return to normal.
Asst Ch Con Claire Nix said: “Kent Police and their partners planned for many months to prepare for potential traffic disruption following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
“Whilst it is pleasing that we have not yet experienced any significant issues on Kent’s roads we are also aware that the roads are currently quieter than usual due to the national Covid-19 lockdown and a lower than normal volume of freight.
“Disruption in the future remains a distinct possibility. We therefore cannot afford to be complacent.”
ACC Nix said the situation was being helped by Operation Brock, the traffic management system that includes a contraflow on the M20.
But she added: “We are continuing to closely monitor daily traffic levels so any problems that may emerge can be quickly addressed.”
Britain left the EU on New Year’s Eve.
The Road Haulage Association warned of traffic hold-ups following this due to the resulting extra paperwork.
It believes that could still eventually happen.
Spokesman Paul Mummery said: “The government opening inland customs sites has reduced the impact on facilities in Kent which is why we’re not seeing the lengthy queues many feared from January 1.
“That’s not to say there aren’t customs delays – they’re just displaced across the different sites across the country. Export volumes are still down so we’re not seeing a true picture.
“Many suppliers and retailers had stockpiled before the end of the transition period.
“Some firms are no longer shipping goods abroad as costs to process onerous red tape and delays getting goods to market can be prohibitive.
“Similarly many EU firms aren’t shipping goods to the UK as it takes longer that it used to, and indeed with reduced opportunities to bring ‘backloads’ on their return journeys it’s often not worth their while.”
There have been instances of the roads to the Port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel being clogged up over the years for several reasons.
It can be simply down to bad weather disrupting ferry schedules or dockers at Calais going on strike.
On Black Saturday, July 23, 2016, there were snarl-ups of up to 12 hours.
This was caused by a high volume of holiday traffic coming in combined with a lack of French border control staff.
On top of that they were carrying out more stringent, and therefore longer, security checks after a terrorist massacre in Nice that month.
In December, there was a long queue of lorries heading for the Port of Dover for three reasons.
These were a rush of goods for Christmas, supply lines were disrupted by coronavirus and businesses stockpiled before a Brexit deal was confirmed.
From December 21 to 24 last year traffic to the port was at a standstill because the French closed their borders to stop the new strain of coronavirus coming into their country.
Truckers can now go there if they have proof of a negative test result.
Kent Police stresses that drivers can help prevent delays by making sure they are tested and have a valid Kent Access permit to come into the county,
ACC Nix is also the chairman of the Kent Resilience Forum, a partnership of agencies that provide a co-ordinated response to emergencies that could severely affect the public.
They include all three emergency services, coastguards, local authorities and the NHS.