Following today’s government announcement relaxing overseas travel rules from 19th July, Kent Resilience Forum (KRF) leaders say they stand ready to support the Department for Transport to meet its responsibilities on its strategic road network, helping to keep Kent moving and protecting local communities.
In a statement to Parliament earlier on Thursday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed plans to remove guidance advising people not to travel to amber-listed countries and to no longer require UK nationals fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to quarantine on return from amber-rated nations. Children under the age of 18 will also not need to quarantine.
The change, which will allow people who have had both doses of the coronavirus vaccine to holiday in popular destinations such as France and Spain (subject those countries’ rules), without having to self-isolate once back home will apply from 4am, Monday 19th July – the same day all remaining lockdown restrictions are set to be dropped in England.
The Prime Minister is due to confirm on Monday (12th July) that this final stage of England’s recovery roadmap will go ahead on the 19th July.
KRF leaders are also reminding people that now the UK has left the EU, new rules apply to travelling to Europe. Passports need to be valid for at least six months and full passport checks mean it will take longer for traffic to clear border controls, leading to traffic delays on routes to Channel ports.
To avoid leaving things to chance, all drivers should make sure they are prepared for delays by following simple steps including:
- CHECKING your route before you travel
- ALLOWING extra time to get to your destination
- PACKING your car with essentials, including food, water, medicines you take regularly and essentials you may need if travelling with children, and
- ENSURING you have at least six months left on your passport, to avoid being turned back at Kent ports.
Following the major disruption in Kent at Christmas, caused by the sudden closure of the French border over concerns about the Alpha (formerly Kent) COVID variant, the KRF’s Brock traffic management plan for the county has evolved to deal with both short and longer-term disruption.
This includes rolling out Highways England’s M20 moveable barrier if required as traffic volumes increase. It also takes into consideration that stacking lorries at Manston is no longer an option, following the Government’s decision not the extend its lease on the former airfield beyond the end of June.
The barrier, designed to be activated and stood down as required to help keep Kent moving and protect people from disruption, has remained on the hard shoulder since its last deactivation in April ready to be re-deployed when needed.
Chief Superintendent Mark Nottage of Kent Police said: “Whilst it is understandable that people will want to make the most of the summer holidays and head abroad when they are able to, we recognise the potential for disruption on Kent’s roads that may result from vehicles heading to the ports in a relatively short space of time combined with the introduction of increased border checks.
“It is therefore vital that anyone planning to travel through Kent follows the latest government advice, and information from their travel operator, and is prepared for potential delays that could also have an impact on the ability of freight to cross the Channel.
“We are continuing to work with our partners in the Kent Resilience Forum to plan for a reasonable worst-case scenario and help fulfil our joint responsibilities to protect the public and keep Kent moving.”
KCC Director for Highways, and Kent Resilience Forum Strategic Planning Lead, Simon Jones said: “The combination of the Government’s decision to lift travel restrictions, fuller passport checks at borders, schools breaking up for summer and the popularity of Kent’s coast and countryside for staycations, will increase the risk of disruption on the county’s roads over the coming weeks.
“We’re keeping a particularly close eye on the weekend of July 24th-25th, the first weekend of the school holidays, when lots of families are likely to hit the road and head for a well-deserved break at home or abroad after many tough months of COVID restrictions.
“The KRF has updated traffic management plans ready to help keep Kent moving and protect local residents and businesses. We also need the public’s help to think a little bit differently about travelling this summer – our first outside of the EU – and to be prepared for delays.
“Whether it’s a long trip, or a short drive, all drivers need to plan their journey before setting off, be prepared for queues and stay tuned to the latest traffic and travel news.”
Nicola Bell, Highways England Regional Director, said: “The lifting of the lockdown restrictions will inevitably mean more travel across to France from 19th. The M20 movable barrier is ready to be deployed when needed to help keep Kent moving.
“We know that some people won’t welcome its return but the barrier worked well on its previous deployments, but we stand ready and will make a decision with our fellow Kent Resilience Forum partners on whether to redeploy the barrier based on HGV and passenger traffic levels.”
For where to go for the latest traffic and travel updates in Kent visit Kent County Council’s Travel & Transport page here and look out for KCC’s safe travel social media awareness campaign #EverySingleJourney on Twitter and Facebook.
For all the latest updated travel guidance visit GOV.UK here
For more information on Operation Brock visit Highways England’s website here