Final lorry drivers set to cross to France following week of border disruption

Mike Bedigan and Jess Glass, PA
·3-min read

The last lorry drivers who were stuck in their vehicles over the Christmas period are preparing to cross to France, following a week of disruption at the English Channel border.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said the backlog of vehicles had been severely reduced and that the systems put in place to return traffic flow to normal were keeping pace with demand.

It comes after thousands of drivers spent Christmas Day in their vehicles when France temporarily closed its border on December 20.

The sudden decision from French authorities – which saw the closure of the Port of Dover and the Eurotunnel – came in response to the discovery of a fast-spreading Covid-19 variant in the UK.

Restrictions were eased on December 23, but the large vehicle backlog meant that around 3,000 hauliers were still waiting to cross into France from Kent on the evening of Christmas Day.

Drivers wishing to enter France from Britain must now show proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken in the previous 72 hours.

Coronavirus – Fri Dec 25, 2020
Many drivers spent Christmas Day caught up in the backlog (Gareth Fuller/PA)

As of Monday, a total of 21,849 coronavirus tests on hauliers had now been carried out with 66 positive results.

Many were held at Manston Airport during Christmas week to receive tests before heading to the Port of Dover.

DfT said there were now only 59 heavy goods vehicles left across Manston and the M20 waiting to cross to France.

A total of 21,849 coronavirus tests on hauliers have now been carried out with 66 positive results.

DfT added that as of Monday a total of 14,659 HGVs had departed via the Port of Dover and the Eurotunnel since their reopening.

The department previously asked heavy goods vehicle drivers to avoid Kent, as road haulage groups warned that those who held off leaving for the border over the festive period were likely to join the queue.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted that the M20 motorway had been reopened, but urged those travelling to Kent to follow updates from Kent County Council and Highways England.

“Current delay for Eurotunnel & Ferry is 30mins for test result,” he added.

In the run-up to Christmas Day volunteers from local communities – including the Salvation Army, Muslim group Al-Khair Foundation, HM Coastguard and Kent County Council – delivered thousands of warm meals and water to the drivers.

Coronavirus – Thu Dec 24, 2020
Travellers must now be able to show proof of a negative test result carried out within the past 72 hours in order to be able to cross into France. (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) co-ordinated with businesses providing food and water to those stuck in queues.

Supermarket chain Tesco also provided 600 food parcels, 24 pallets of staples and thousands of sausage rolls, which were distributed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.