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Disaster relief charity contracted to help stranded lorry drivers in Kent


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A disaster relief charity which has carried out aid missions in Ukraine and Africa has been contracted to help lorry drivers stranded on the M20.

The charity RE:ACT is normally involved during wars or in the aftermath of disasters but the deal with Kent County Council would see it step in during periods when there is disruption to cross-Channel routes.

Lorries queue on the M20 motorway in Kent, near Sellindge, as part of Operation Brock Picture: Barry Goodwin
Lorries queue on the M20 motorway in Kent, near Sellindge, as part of Operation Brock Picture: Barry Goodwin

It has worked in South Africa, Mozambique and Ukraine on aid missions.

But it also now has a contract to help stranded lorry drivers, who have complained that there have often been incidents when Operation Brock is in place when they have not received food or water or provided with toilets.

KCC said the aid charity was among many organisations - including the Red Cross - with whom the Kent Resilience Forum had contracts to offer aid.

The terms of the six-month deal - worth £158,000 - involve the charity providing help when there is gridlock on the routes to the Channel ports.

A statement on the deal - agreed without a normal tendering process - read: "Kent County Council has long accepted that it has a duty to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need. A direct award was used due to reasons of extreme urgency.”

Operation Brock on the M20 between junction 8 and junction 9 Picture: Barry Goodwin
Operation Brock on the M20 between junction 8 and junction 9 Picture: Barry Goodwin

“Kent is a key gateway to Europe and a county with many tourist attractions so our roads can get very busy. As a responsible local authority and key member of the Kent Resilience Forum (KRF) we have long had plans in place for delivering aid to drivers caught in significant disruption, where it is safe and practical to do so.

“To do this we routinely work with organisations experienced at working in emergency situations, and on live motorways, including South East 4x4, British Red Cross, Kent Search and Rescue and the Coastguard – and most recently RE:ACT.”

Labour said the contract showed the scale of the crisis.

KMTV's report on the challenges faced by hauliers in Kent

Nick Thomas-Symonds, shadow international trade secretary, said: “That a disaster relief charity has been called in shows the scale of the crisis this Conservative government created. It is high time that ministers started focussing on pragmatic solutions.”

It has recently been confirmed that Operation Brock is to remain in the event it could be needed during the summer period when holiday traffic is set to soar.

The recent bout of disruption led to the complete closure of a section of M20 after the ferry operator P&O stopped crossings as it fell into financial difficulties and controversially sacked some 800 employees.

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