Kent’s residents and motorists have been thanked for their patience as Kent Resilience Forum (KRF) partners worked round-the-clock with Port of Dover and Eurotunnel over the pre-Christmas getaway weekend to help thousands of passengers get safely to their destination.
Already a traditionally busy period for freight, as hauliers work to deliver goods and keep supermarket shelves stocked, Friday into Saturday also saw high numbers seeking to reach France ahead of its ban on non-essential travel coming into force.
In response to concerns about the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, as of 11pm Friday 17 December the French government requires everyone to have a compelling reason for travelling to France. Arrivals also need to show evidence of a negative COVID test taken within the last 24 hours. The new French travel rules are detailed on the French Embassy website.
While operators worked flat out to keep their customers updated and manage traffic in their terminals, National Highways, Kent County Council Highways and Kent Police were out on the roads ensuring traffic flowed as smoothly as possible.
TAP20 – the traffic management scheme used to control the flow of freight from the A20 into the Port of Dover – was implemented daily to help reduce the impact of disruption on Dover town. Diversions were also put in place to help guide local traffic away from Channel-bound congestion, with the A20 eastbound carriageway between the M20 J13 (Folkestone), and the A260 (Hawkinge), closed to on several occasions to prevent queuing in the Roundhill Tunnel.
Heavy lifting gear was positioned roadside in readiness to deal swiftly with broken down vehicles and, working in partnership with other agencies, Kent Police officers were deployed to key routes to help manage traffic and assist with the quick removal of any breakdowns.
Border Force also worked closely with PAF, its French equivalent, to ensure customs booths were well staffed to help with the processing of passengers through check in.
KRF Strategic Planning Lead, Kent County Council’s Corporate Director for Growth, Environment and Transport Simon Jones, said: “As the crossing of choice for hauliers and passenger traffic travelling to and from the UK to Europe, more than 6,300 freight vehicles alone routinely use Kent roads daily to access the Short Straits’ gateways of Port of Dover and Eurotunnel.
“As expected, the last weekend ahead of festive break saw high volumes of lorries with the situation further complicated by large numbers of passengers wanting to reach France before its new restrictions took affect.
“As always, KRF partners responded, working closely with the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel, to help keep Kent moving as smoothly as possible, enable our residents to go about their daily lives as uninterrupted as best we can, and to get everyone travelling safely to their destination.
“On behalf of the Kent Resilience Forum, I would like to thank our local communities and drivers for their patience as we worked together to manage yet another challenge on our vital cross-Channel routes.
“Collectively, we are on the frontline of responding to delays and disruption caused by ever-changing COVID travel restrictions.
“Kent is a nationally important economic gateway to Europe, and the Short Straits is a vital and strategic trading corridor that currently accounts for 59% of UK business with the EU, worth around £250 billion a year.
“Any disruption has a severe and unsustainable impact upon our communities and businesses, particularly in areas most in need in the east of the county. We have, and will continue to, make our case to government for future-ready, and future-proofed, smart borders in Kent.”