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Operation Brock on M20: No end in sight for contraflow between Ashford and Maidstone


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There is no near end in sight for Operation Brock on the M20 – meaning drivers will have to continue to put up with narrow lanes and a 50mph limit.

The government introduced the hated contraflow between Junction 8 for Leeds Castle and Junction 9 for Ashford last year in anticipation of disruption at the end of the Brexit transition period.

Drivers will have to continue to put up with Operation Brock on the M20. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Drivers will have to continue to put up with Operation Brock on the M20. Picture: Barry Goodwin

The lengthy queues at the ports are yet to materialise even though cross-Channel lorry movements are now back to normal – sparking calls for the system to be lifted.

But bosses say there is no set date for the removal of the contraflow, which is made by a moveable concrete barrier that is 12.3 miles long and consists of 19,563 individual blocks.

The system sees the coastbound 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.

And Ashford MP Damian Green says the current arrangement is to remain in place for now.

"There's not a set date to reopen it for full, three-lane working both ways, because the Covid situation is obviously an added difficulty that wasn't planned for," he said.

"We've not had any weather since January that's stopped ferries going, so there's another situation in which we haven't seen how necessary it is.

"And ideally, by the summertime, there might be some holiday traffic.

"We've certainly not seen drivers going across the Channel as tourists since the transition date, so we need to see how Kent's roads and Operation Brock will operate then."

Currently, lorry drivers heading to the Eurotunnel terminal are being led into the Operation Brock holding area to have their documents checked before continuing their journey.

And truckers wanting to use the Port of Dover are sent on the A2, M2 and A299 route to Manston Airport where they are being tested for Covid-19 ahead of any cross-Channel travel.

Motorists face a 50mph limit and narrow lanes in the contraflow. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Motorists face a 50mph limit and narrow lanes in the contraflow. Picture: Barry Goodwin

Mr Green said Brock will play a key role in controlling traffic flow when Ashford's controversial Brexit lorry park fully opens at the end of this month.

The 66-acre site next to Junction 10a partially opened in January and is currently being used for Covid tests.

It is set to be fully operational soon, with HMRC using part of the land for customs checks.

Ashford MP Damian Green says there is no set removal date
Ashford MP Damian Green says there is no set removal date

Mr Green added: "The next thing they'd like to do is stop using Manston, and if you can merge all Dover and Channel Tunnel traffic to head towards Ashford that will be possible.

"So far they've been directing lorries down the M2 and A2, and they don't want that to be permanent – once the new customs check site is up and running in Ashford, Brock will be important in merging all that traffic to just the Sevington lorry park."

Ashford Borough Council deputy leader Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con) says keeping Operation Brock in place makes sense.

The contraflow crossover point near the Sandyhurst Lane bridge in Ashford. Picture: Barry Goodwin
The contraflow crossover point near the Sandyhurst Lane bridge in Ashford. Picture: Barry Goodwin

He thinks there could be disruption in July when full border controls on goods entering the UK begin to apply.

"Brock isn't great, but it is infinitely better than Operation Stack," he said.

"I would leave it until July is out of the way and then take a decision on it in August," he said.

"I don't know what they would do then, but you would need to be really convinced that everything will be fine before removing it.

"The problem is that the French are so fragile and can go off on one for unconnected reasons."

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