Published: 14:56, 23 April 2021
| Updated: 19:11, 24 April 2021
The M20 is set to be closed for two nights while Operation Brock is stood down.
Movable barriers between Junctions 8 and 9 comprise the contraflow system, which sees the coast-bound side of the M20 used only by HGVs heading to the Channel ports, with all other traffic restricted to the dreaded contraflow on the London-bound carriageway.
The 12.3-mile long barriers have proved highly controversial since being installed in 2019, as regular drivers were forced to go 50mph along the stretch.
Work will begin tonight to remove the system, with closures lasting from 8pm to 8am on Sunday morning, and then again from 8pm to 6am on Monday.
The closures on Saturday will affect Junctions 7 to 9 on the coast-bound carriageway, and Junction 9 to 8 on the London-bound carriageway.
Sunday's closure will only affect the London-bound carriageway.
Operation Brock is set to go
Traffic on the coast-bound route will be diverted from Junction 7 heading towards the A249 Canterbury, then follow the M2 Dover, then A2 Dover, then the A20 London which re-joins the M20.
London-bound traffic under 4.7 metres in height will be sent towards the A20 Maidstone at Junction 9, then re-join the M20 motorway at junction 8.
Vehicles over 4.7m tall need to follow a different route which is to turn around at junction 9 to re-join the M20 towards Dover, then the A20 heading for Dover.
They will then follow the A2 towards Canterbury, then the M2 London, exiting the motorway at junction 7 onto the A249 towards Maidstone to re-join the M20 motorway at junction 7.
In January of last year, a number of Kent MPs joined forces in urging the transport minister to lift the contraflow system.
However as the end of the Brexit transition period neared, the barriers were once again installed on the M20 at a cost of £55million.
Despite HGV traffic returning to normal in February, Ashford MP Damian Green supported continuation of the contraflow saying that the true test of the system and Kent's HGV mitigation would come when cross-channel holidays would once again be allowed.
Work to remove the barrier will be completed with two overnight closures.
The first will see the full closure of the M20 coastbound from junctions 7 to 9 and on the London-bound from junctions 9 to 8 from 8pm on Saturday until 8am on Sunday.
Work will resume overnight on the London-bound carriageway from 8pm on Sunday until 6am on Monday to remove the barrier.
Despite today's announcement, the Kent Resilience Forum - which is behind Brexit traffic mitigation planning - note the barrier will remain on hand in case it's required.
Assistant chief constable Nikki Faulconbridge of Kent Police, who is also the chair of the Kent Resilience Forum, said: "With freight volumes back to normal, customs rules better understood and Covid-19 testing sites now well-established across the UK, the time is right for the Operation Brock contraflow to be removed.
"I would like to thank the people of Kent for their patience and understanding whilst the barrier has been in place.
"It is however important to note that the barrier will remain on the hard shoulder and can be activated again in the future if necessary.
"Alongside our partners we will continue to monitor traffic levels closely over the weeks and months to come, including during an expected increase when tourists are once again allowed to access Kent’s ports, to ensure any emerging issues are suitably addressed."
Some measures will remain in place, including the specially-built Ashford Inland Border Facility in Sevington.
The Department for Transport also noted: "Hauliers will have continued access to support on border requirements at any one of 46 Information and Advice sites across the UK, with the busiest sites remaining in place until at least August.
"So far, sites have proven to be extremely popular, helping to prepare over 200,000 hauliers adjust to new border requirements since first opening in November 2020."