Temporary measures introduced to help ease post-Brexit freight delays in Kent are to be made permanent in anticipation of further delays
Lorry-only zones created to manage HGV queues were due to end on 31 October 2021, but it has been reported that the government is to remove the “sunset clause” which sets the expiry date for the power, to ensure special measures will be available indefinitely.
The government introduced the powers, codenamed Operation Brock, to deal with post-Brexit congestion of freight heading to the port of Dover and the Channel tunnel at Folkestone.
The announcement to extend the emergency powers came despite backlash from local residents affected by multiple diversions.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Operation Brock measures will remain temporary and will only be used when there is a significant risk of delays.
“While Operation Brock was originally created to deal with disruption caused by [the] EU exit [transition period] and in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, removing the sunset clauses from Operation Brock will mean the Kent Resilience Forum is better prepared to respond to any type of traffic disruption in the area, not solely related to EU exit, including strikes and severe weather.”
The powers allow for lorry-only zones along the M20 to Dover to ease freight congestion. Steel barriers have been erected to redirect traffic along the motorway, installing contraflow systems for commuters, and roadside parking areas provided.
It is designed to cope with backlogs of up to 13,000 lorries heading to mainland Europe from Kent.
The government first enacted the measures in October 2019 to manage disruptions caused by Brexit. They were then reinstated in 2020 after the French border was shut due to coronavirus infections, and then again this summer to cope with holiday traffic to France.
However, Kent residents have claimed the measures bring major traffic disruptions to the area as the M20 needs to be closed overnight in order to build the necessary infrastructure, resulting in local traffic diversions.
Jim McMahon, shadow transport secretary, told The Guardian: “By removing the sunset clauses on Operation Brock it’s an admission that they’ve failed to plan for the outcome of their Brexit negotiations and failed to work with local people over the past 18 months to put in place a better scheme.
“Operation Brock has proved unpopular locally and slipping out an announcement in the hope that no one notices shows a total disregard for the concerns of local people in Kent.”