Dartford Crossing protest is 'breaking' UK supply chains

18 October 2022

Protesters on the Dartford Crossing bridge are “putting businesses at risk” and threaten “empty shelves” in stores, a logistics provider has warned.

Rob Hollyman, director of Youngs Transportation and Logistics, said the protest, now entering its second day, was costing the logistics firm “tens of thousands of pounds” because only around 15% of the firm's fleet was able to deliver goods after the bridge was closed by police.

The vital bridge, which links Essex and Kent, was closed yesterday (17 October) after two Just Stop Oil protesters scaled the bridge supports and refused to come down, leading to tailbacks of up to six miles.

Hollyman told Supply Management: “The supply chain during Covid was absolutely incredible. It might have slowed down but it never did break. This protest is breaking it. And that's the big difference. 

“In Covid, we fought through. We struggled on. Drivers got to places maybe a day later than they would otherwise have done normally, but they did get there. We can't do that now. If we've got somewhere to drive to, we can't get there. People in Kent can't get into Essex.”

He said the impact was being felt along the supply chain, and said it was impacting everything from food, water, PPE, paint and car parts.

“None of our Warrington, Felixstowe or Southampton vehicles that should come into us with cargo to load are doing that because they can't get to us. It's not just affected us, it's all our customers as well.”

Hollyman added: “It's breaking not only the UK supply chain, but it's actually breaking the world supply chain as well.” This is because trucks carrying supplies destined for Europe are unable to get to ports.

The logistics industry has already been hit by worker shortages and rising fuel and energy costs.

“This country is facing struggles like we haven't faced for a lifetime, since postwar really. And this disruption is adding millions to the debt,” Hollyman said. “We'll survive because we're big enough. But there'll be lots of businesses that won't.”

Chief supt Simon Anslow from Essex Police said: “I'd again like to reiterate my thanks to the public for their patience and understanding. 

“I assure them that we continue to work with our partners to bring this dangerous and irresponsible disruption to an end & to keep people safe and keep Essex moving.”

One of the protesters said in a video released on Twitter that they will remain on the bridge “until the government makes a meaningful statement to cancel all new licences and consents for oil and gas extraction”.

A spokesperson for Just Stop Oil acknowledged to SM that the protest was causing disruption to the UK’s supply chains, saying: “We're aware that causing such huge disruption on the M25 at any point is going to be immensely disruptive, and we are aware that some points of the network are more disruptive than others.” 

Pressure on the Dartford Crossing will be relieved once the Lower Thames Crossing project, involving a new tunnel beneath the river and currently in a key procurement phase described to SM, is completed.

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