Lorry drivers stranded in Kent are being slapped with parking tickets ahead of a an overnight closure of the M20 – with fed up drivers seen wiping out cars and blasting their horns when they were unable to leave the UK.
Operation Stack was in place along the M20 in Kent, a holding measure that closes off one carriageway so that lorries can park up during disruption at the county’s ports – but that is being upgraded to Operation Brock.
The measure will close an 18-mile stretch of the motorway from 8pm tonight for 12 hours so that a movable barrier can be installed that divides the Londonbound carriageway, allowing for coastbound traffic to return while lorries continue to be held.
Despite the measure, Highways England is warning hauliers to avoid driving to Kent, as disruption could last ‘several days’.
Around 950 lorries are currently parked on the M20 – far higher than Boris Johnson’s earlier statement saying there were 174 on the motorway.
New arrivals are being sent to Manston Airport, where there is space for 4,000 lorries, while around 200 other truckers have travelled to Ashford International Truckstop.
Stanislaw Olbrich, 55 was among those 200 drivers, but is worried about whether he’ll be able to see his wife and three children in southern Poland on Christmas Day.
Mr Olbrich told Reuters: ‘I take freight to Britain and I can’t go back home because of (the) stupid virus. But I don’t know if it is the virus – I think it’s politics.
‘It’s very difficult for me because I am away. My chances of going home for Christmas are going down. It’s stupid and I am nervous and unhappy about that.”
‘They need me to come for Christmas – it is a very special holiday in Poland. For Polish people it is very hard to be away at Christmas.’
Emergency services, Kent County Council and charities have been handing out water and snacks to stranded drivers throughout today.
Foreign lorry drivers, including Romanian Christian, have parked up at Ashford lorry park tonight amid chaos at Dover
A top French haulage union has stoked fears of a driver strike, with an official warning ‘no trucker wants to deliver’ to Britain amid the new strain.
HM Coastguard joined charities and Kent County Council in handing out water and snacks to stranded drivers on the M20 today
A foreign lorry driver took out the front of a care worker’s car in Ashford, Kent, today, amid chaos at the Port of Dover
Operation Brock hopes to allow traffic to keep moving in both directions by splitting the London-bound carriageway while coastbound HGVs queue. The measure will come into effect tonight, closing the carriageway between 8pm and 8am
France imposed an inbound travel ban from 11pm last night amid the spread of the mutant Covid-19 strain which plunged London and the South East into Tier Four
Tonight Folkestone and Hythe District Council confirmed it had dealt out 15 fines to stranded drivers, while Kent County Council revealed it had been handing out drinking water and snacks ‘through the day’.
Sikh charity Khalsa Aid said it had arrived in Dover tonight with a thousand bottles of water, along with crisps, cereal bars and biscuits, to ensure stranded drivers are being fed.
Founder Ravinder Singh and his team stopped off in Ashford along the way to help some of the stranded drivers.
He said: ‘They very grateful to receive the items but seemed very despondent about the situation.’
Lorry driver Eric Johnson revealed hauliers are running out of options in the chaos, the 50-year-old from Birmingham said: ‘Apparently all the laybys nearby are booked up and the truck stops are basically full too.
‘For a lot of us getting here later on, there’s nowhere else to go.’
The chaos could continue until Christmas Eve, with French president Emmanual Macron insisting lorry drivers must present proof they have tested negative for Covid-19 before being allowed to cross The Channel.
Irish trucker Damien Doherty, 42, said: ‘My wife is worried sick I won’t be home for Christmas.’
‘I was literally the last lorry in the Port last night before they shut it.
‘Thankfully I managed to get it shipped out in time as it’s a very expensive load of perishable fish.
‘It’s a very strange decision for the French government to make. It definitely feels political rather than practical.’
Lorries are parked up on the M20 as part of Operation Stack, after France closed its border with the UK to prevent the spread of Covid-19
Stranded drivers said today they had heard that spaces were filling up across Kent’s lorry parks and lay-bys
Police remain along the coastbound carriageway of the M20 between Maidstone and Ashford, where lorries are being held
France imposed an inbound travel ban from 11pm last night amid the spread of the mutant Covid-19 strain which plunged London and the South East into Tier Four.
The ban forced Dover to close to all freight vehicles leaving the UK for 48 hours, plunging the ports into chaos with 23 mile long queues and sparking panic buying across Britain amid fears of a shortage of fresh food and doses of the coronavirus vaccine.
Some 10,000 lorries a day travel through Dover, which accounts for 20 per cent of all goods brought and sold in UK.
Santos Filipe, 54, brought a cargo of vegetables to England from Spain at 11am on Monday morning with the intention of returning the same afternoon.
But he now fears he may not be able to return home to native Portugal to enjoy the festivities.
Operation Brock sees a movable barreir installed between Junction 8 (Maidstone) and Junction 9 (Ashford) of the M20. The motorway will close at 8pm tonight until 8am for the installation work to be carried out
Kent County Council said it had provided snacks and bottled water ‘throughout the day,’ as lorries were left stranded in the county
He said: ‘We all feel awful that we might miss Christmas after everything this terrible year has given us.
‘I have had to turn off my emotions. I’m trying not to let it get to me.
‘They should have shut the border as soon as they heard of this new strain of the coronavirus.
‘Or they should be testing all drivers before they leave while stopping normal passengers from travelling.
‘We are key workers who have helped keep the world going throughout this pandemic and we are repaid with these rash decisions.
‘I don’t know how long this will take. They said we may get information this morning but we were shown papers at the border which said it would be at least two days.’
Amid the chaos at Dover today, one frustratrated driver sounded horn with no signs of stopping – prompting fury from those nearby.
One man who saw the incident said: ‘It seemed he [the driver] was really angry he couldn’t get through so was sounding his horn the whole time.
‘People who live nearby and who were staying in the hotels were coming out and having a go at him because of the noise.
‘Some people were threatening to throw roadwork signs at the driver because he kept going around the roundabout beeping the horn really loudly.
‘A woman came out of the hotel in her dressing gown to see what was going on. One man threatened to throw a frying pan through his window if he didn’t stop sounding the horn. The driver was making rude gestures to locals who came out to shout at him.
‘At one point he appeared to drive at the workers on the gate, then slammed his brakes on at the last minute.’
Folkestone and Hythe District Council has defended slapping lorry drivers who park in laybys with fixed penalty notices.
The borders are set to reopen with the Port of Dover saying inbound lorries are now coming into the UK and the French government pledging to ‘resume movement’ as soon as possible
One furious lorry driver sounded his own horn in protest to the long delays at Dover earlier today
As lorries queue on the M20 in Kent, Folkestone and Hythe District Council has defended slapping 15 drivers with fines for parking illegally on laybys
A spokeswoman for the council said tonight: ‘Illegal lorry parking has been a problem in this particular area and our enforcement teams regularly patrol here.
‘The council has to look after our residents, and persistent illegal lorry parking causes damage to verges, littering, human excrement, dangerous obstructions and nuisance to our residents.
‘There are official lorry parks which should be used by drivers rather than coming off the designated routes and parking illegally in areas that were never designed for such use.
‘Whilst the current situation might seem unusual, local residents have endured unpleasant impacts whenever there is cross channel disruption.
‘We’ve been informed that there is plenty of space in the official areas designated for lorries waiting to cross the channel and clear signage is in place to direct drivers to these.
‘We will continue to patrol areas as normal to encourage lorries to follow the official process. Anyone who feels that they’ve been wrongly issued a parking ticket can appeal through the normal channels.’
Operation Stack is in place on the M20, with space to hold up to 7,000 lorries. HGV drivers are usually told to stock up on food in case the measure comes into place
Foreign lorry drivers remain stranded in Dover tonight, including Polish trucker Marcin Pastok (pictured), who has driven to Ashford International Truck Stop amid the chaos
Residents in the small Aycliffe neighbourhood of Dover which overlooks the usually jammed A20 coming into the town fear things could get worse before they get better.
While Operation Stack has diverted lorries away from the village, Ian Goldthorpe, 46, fears for his family’s health.
The father-of-two said: ‘We don’t really know how safe it is here as they did the tests but never told us what it found. It’s very ominous.’
Carer Mr Goldthorpe has lived in Aycliffe for six years with his wife and two sons aged nine and 21.
The carer added: ‘It can be an absolute nightmare living here with the horns constantly tooting from 4am to 7am. They just sit there going beep.
Highways England is considering installing a barrier that will help traffic flow on the M20 while lorries are held during disruption at Dover
‘So when you’ve got kids it can be really tough as they go to school drained and tired.
‘We’ve had Dover TAP for the past five or six days in a row and it’s just been constant queues.
‘You feel trapped and very isolated as you can’t really go anywhere as the A20 is our only escape.
‘We always knew Brexit was probably going to cause us problems four years ago. They still haven’t been able to reach a deal so we’ll have to wait and see.
‘But it could be the perfect storm. I fear these problems are going to be here for a very long time.’
The borders are set to reopen with the Port of Dover saying inbound lorries are now coming into the UK and the French government pledging to ‘resume movement’ as soon as possible.
However, the top French haulage union has stoked fears of a driver strike, with an official warning ‘no trucker wants to deliver’ to Britain amid the new strain.