Road bosses have planned a Brexit ‘dress rehearsal’ where the M20 in Kent will be shut for four nights to test a new system for dealing with lorries queuing for Europe.
The UK Government’s Operation Brock is being tested in the hope of keeping traffic moving in both directions by splitting the London-bound carriageway. While HGVs queue for the Port of Dover other traffic will be allowed to continue unimpeded.
The M20 will shut between Maidstone and Ashford every night between 8pm and 8am from next Friday, December 11, to Monday, December 14.
Highways England said the new movable concrete barrier will be ‘much quicker’ to deploy than previous systems which took weeks to install and remove.
Operation Brock hopes to allow traffic to keep moving in both directions by splitting the London-bound carriageway while coastbound HGVs queue. Pictured, the moveable barrier
Freight lorries queueing along the M20 in Kent waiting to access the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone on Tuesday, November 24, 2020
And it expects it to play ‘a key part in managing any disruption at the ports after the EU exit date’ on New Years Eve.
While the contraflow is in place, lorries heading to mainland Europe will be restricted to 30mph while all other traffic will use the Londonbound contraflow limited to 50mph.
The barrier will then be placed back on the hard shoulder for when it is next needed.
Freight lorries queueing along the M20 in Kent on Tuesday, November 24, 2020. Next week workers will test the revolutionary barrier by installing it and then removing it to practice for when queues build at the Eurotunnel and Port of Dover
Highways England south east operations director Nicola Bell said: ‘We have again worked extensively with our partners in Kent and are confident that this test will provide a valuable dress rehearsal into the operation of our Kent-wide port disruption contingency measures.
‘The test will help us to fine tune Operation Brock, finding ways to make the deployment quicker whenever the barrier is needed, whether it be in preparation for transition, or other disruption to cross-channel services.
‘Operation Brock will keep Kent moving, and we thank road users in advance for their patience while the test is taking place.’
Lorries and passengers are seen aboard a ferry as it leaves the Port of Dover last year. Without a deal, imports and exports face serious disruption with the abrupt return of barriers that have not existed for decade
Lorries are held in a formation on the A256 a few miles north of Dover in southern England on January 7, 2019. They took part in a trial to tackle portential post-Brexit traffic queues heading into the country’s main Port of Dover
The contraflow system is designed to also alleviate congestion on local roads by allowing traffic to continue using the 50-mile motorway.
Workers will test the revolutionary barrier by installing it and then removing it to practice for when queues build at the Eurotunnel and Port of Dover.
Operation Brock needs to be active by December 31 to manage any cross-Channel disruption after the EU exit date.
Manston Airfield in Thanet will be used to hold Port-bound traffic so checks can be carried out to ensure hauliers have correct paperwork to cross the border.
Another off road site off the M20 at junction 10A at Sevington near Ashford will be used if the M20 contraflow reaches capacity.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘Kent is a critical link to one of our busiest trade routes, and this state-of-the-art technology will ensure that we can keep the local road network moving.
‘Testing this barrier now will ensure that if the system is needed it can be quickly and safely deployed, helping drivers get to where they need to be – even in the event of disruption at the end of the transition period and to assist with any other future disruption caused for any reason.’
How exactly will the M20 be closed from December 11 to 14 and what can drivers expect?
During four nights workers will be testing the new removable barrier by installing and removing it, it has been revealed.
The M20 will close in both directions overnight between junctions seven and nine coastbound, and junctions nine and eight London-bound, on Friday December 11, for the installation of a moveable barrier.
The Government website revealed: ‘When the M20 reopens by 8am on Saturday 12 December, the contraflow will be in place in its initial phase.
‘Drivers will need to follow the different layout on the M20 from just north of Junction 8 (for Hollingbourne/Leeds) to Junction 9 (Ashford).
‘Lorries heading for mainland Europe will be routed down the coastbound carriageway, with a 30mph speed limit in place.
‘All other traffic will be directed onto the contraflow, with two lanes in each direction operating at 50mph.’
At 8pm on Saturday, December 12, the M20 will close in both directions overnight between junctions seven and nine coastbound and junctions nine and eight London-bound.
They will reopen by 8am on Sunday, December 13, with the contraflow open in its final phase.
On the night of Sunday, December 12, the road will close between the same junctions and times so traffic management can be removed.
The Government guidance reads: ‘When the M20 reopens by 8am on Monday 14 December, the coastbound carriageway will be back to normal, with all traffic management removed.
‘The London-bound carriageway will be open but some traffic management – including the moveable barrier – will still be in place.
‘Speed restrictions will apply. The London-bound carriageway will be closed overnight between junctions 9 and 8 at 8pm on Monday 14 December with the moveable barrier being moved to the far side of the hard shoulder.’
By 8am on Tuesday, December 15, the M20 should be back to normal with all three lanes at the national speed limit.