Kent Resilience Forum (KRF) leaders have thanked residents, businesses, drivers and hauliers for their patience as the M20 Operation Brock contraflow is put out in time for Monday’s lifting of COVID restrictions. This includes ending the need for people fully vaccinated against the virus to self-isolate once back in the UK from amber-rated countries.
The precautionary move is being made to support the Department for Transport (DfT) in managing the strategic network ahead of tourist traffic returning.
The concrete barrier which creates a contraflow is designed to be deployed quickly to help keep traffic flowing on the M20 in both directions and to reduce disruption for local communities. It covers the 16-mile stretch of the carriageway between Junctions 8 and 9.
It means lorries heading to the Continent will be legally required to follow the signed HGV routes to the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel and speed restrictions will apply to both London-bound and coast-bound carriageways.
The barrier has remained on the hard shoulder since it was used last in April and work to move it into position will happen overnight at the weekend, when traffic is lightest, to limit inconvenience for drivers.
KCC’s Highways Director and KRF Strategic Planning Lead Simon Jones said: “Given passport and COVID checks have increased processing times for UK passengers at the border, we have taken the precaution to implement the contraflow to keep Kent moving and protect our communities ahead of the return of tourist traffic.
“While we are focused on the impact of passenger traffic, it is equally as important to ensure local and national hauliers continue to operate as smoothly as possible.
“We are very aware that travel this summer will be a bit different and with the start of school holidays just around the corner we believe this is the right thing to do to give people the best opportunity to reach their destination quickly and safely.”
Highways England’s moveable barrier
Simon Jones added: “It is important at this time that anyone choosing to use Kent’s roads plans their route, makes sure they are prepared for journeys to be longer than expected and stays in touch with the latest traffic and travel information.
“I want to reassure everyone that we will be continuing to monitor the situation closely, with the objective of getting Kent’s roads back to normal as soon as possible, and to also thank all residents and drivers for their patience during this time.”
Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “We’ve long maintained that international travel will be different this year and, as we move into holiday season, we’re anticipating more people travelling to the Continent through Kent.
“We are planning for disruption and delays at the Kent border, and although Operation Brock will help manage traffic, keeping Kent’s roads open and essential freight moving – there could be significant wait times for non-essential travel as we adjust to new border checks.”
Nicola Bell, Highways England Regional Director, said: “The lifting of the lockdown restrictions will inevitably mean more travel across to France from 19th July and, we, along with our Kent Resilience Forum partners, have taken the decision to reinstall the moveable barrier on the M20 to prepare for this.
“We know that some people won’t welcome its return, but we need to be prepared for an increase in not only HGVs but also in passenger traffic. We feel it is the right decision to redeploy the barrier in case it is needed to keep Kent moving should levels of HGVs and cars heading to the border be high.
“The deployment of the barrier on the M20 will of course be kept under constant review and we will remove it as soon as we can.”