Published: 17:53, 18 December 2020
| Updated: 18:29, 18 December 2020
A new moveable barrier will be deployed overnight on the M20, four days before the end of the Brexit transition period, highways bosses have confirmed.
Operation Brock - a series of measures to improve Kent’s resilience in the event of disruption to services across the English Channel - will be implemented overnight on Sunday December 27, with the contraflow active from Monday December 28, in preparation for the end of the EU Transition Period on December 31.
It sees the coastbound side of the motorway between Maidstone and Ashford used by HGVs heading to cross-Channel ports, with all other traffic restricted to a 50mph contraflow on the opposite carriageway.
To make sure the contraflow is deployed safely, the M20 will be closed overnight in both directions between junctions 8 and 9 on the nights of December 27 and 28.
Traffic volumes permitting, the M20 will close at 10pm on December 27, with both carriageways set to reopen by 10am on December 28, or earlier if possible.
Highways England says these times have been chosen to minimise disruption to road users and avoid the key Christmas travel period.
The M20 will also be closed overnight on December 28 between 10pm and 10am.
Once the barrier is in place, the road will reopen in its new configuration, with HGVs and other freight heading for the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel using the coastbound carriageway on the M20, where it will be queued if necessary.
All other traffic - including local freight - should follow the signs and cross over to enter the contraflow on the M20 London bound carriageway.
The move will only add to pressures on Kent's roads which are already seeing long queues at the Port of Dover and at the Channel Tunnel terminal.
A haulier from Sittingbourne spoke out earlier today about making a twice-weekly trip to Belgium.
He said fifteen-mile queues for lorries waiting to board ferries to Kent spell looming disaster in the new year.
And a ports boss has already pleaded for more funding from the government to ease traffic problems as motorists face more chaos on Kent's roads.
There have been problems on the roads in Folkestone, Hythe and Dover for four consecutive days as the sheer weight of freight traffic builds up once again.
When the motorway closes overnight for the barrier to be installed, drivers should look out for signs directing them to either stay on the coastbound carriageway or to enter the contraflow. All cars and motorbikes should enter the contraflow.
Highways England south east operations director Nicola Bell said: “The live test last weekend went really well with the contraflow system operating as expected.
"It gave us and our Kent Resilience Forum partners a valuable insight into timings for deployment and was a very successful exercise. The test also gave the DVSA the opportunity to test their plans.
“The two moveable barrier machines worked exceptionally well with over 14,000 tonnes of concrete blocks being moved in just a few hours, together with more than 8,000 cones.”
Operation Brock will be rolled out just after Christmas
Head of Kent Resilience Team Mark Rolfe said: “To help keep the county moving, the Kent Resilience Forum has brought together Department for Transport, Highways England, Kent Police, and Kent County Council to agree a single plan to minimise the impact of any cross-Channel disruption.
“Ensuring the M20 moveable barrier is in place ahead of Transition Day is part of this plan and our joint commitment to keep Kent’s transport network running safely and providing reliable travel information.”