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Operation Brock no-deal Brexit contra-flow on M20 to be removed

The controversial M20 contra-flowinstalled as part of the Operation Brock no-deal Brexit preparations will be lifted and work will start on Monday.

The decision comes after several of the county’s MPs met with the transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris earlier this week to make the case for the M20 to be restored to its usual three-lanes.

Operation Brock on the M20. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Operation Brock on the M20. Picture: Barry Goodwin

At the meeting, the MPs argued that it was no longer necessary to continue with the two lane restriction between Ashford and Maidstone on the London-bound stretch as the uncertainty over whether Brexit was going to happen had ended.

In a tweet, the Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch said the MPs had a productive meeting with the minister.

She said the group had “collectively pressed for an announcement soon.”

Ashford MP Damian Green said he “hoped to hear more”, hinting there could be an announcement sooner rather than later.

Then at about 5.30pm today, Miss Crouch tweeted again to say work will start on Monday, January 13.

The work will involve the M20 being closed on Monday between junctions 9 and 7 from 10pm to 6am.

On Tuesday, January 14, the London-bound carriageway will be closed between the same junctions at the same times for 16 nights until the barrier is removed completely.

Diversions will be in place over the period.

The leader of Kent County Council had also pressed for the M20 contra-flow to be lifted as soon as possible.

Cllr Roger Gough Cllr Gough said there was a strong case for lifting the scheme, among many measures that were devised to minimise delays and disruption In the event of a no-deal Brexit.

MPs gather to discuss Operation Brock contraflow with Transport Minister Chris Heaton-Harris. Picture: Greg Clark
MPs gather to discuss Operation Brock contraflow with Transport Minister Chris Heaton-Harris. Picture: Greg Clark

The contra-flow on the London-bound carriageway between Ashford and Maidstone has been criticised by some as unsafe, with complaints that the two lanes are too narrow and the 50mph speed limit routinely ignored.

However, Cllr Gough said there was a wider issue around frictionless trade and the need to have arrangements for border checks and customs that were closely aligned to the existing ones.

“There will still be a very large volume of trade coming from Europe through Dover.

"There will still be some degree of greater friction than in the past and there is work to be done around the concept of “smart borders” and how trade friction is minimised.”

The barriers on the M20 will be removed and work will start on Monday. Picture: Paul Amos
The barriers on the M20 will be removed and work will start on Monday. Picture: Paul Amos

In her tweet this evening, Miss Crouch said: "Hurrah! Operation Brock barriers on the M20 to be removed from Monday.

"There will be overnight closures for the works but the many constituents who use that route on a daily basis will be relieved that they are going!"

Damian Green said he was pleased by the news.

“It (the contra-flow) was a reasonable precaution to take just in case we had a no-deal Brexit.

"I would like to have seen this happen sooner but we are talking a matter of days. If it hadn't happened now I would certainly have been making a lot of noise.

Work will start on Monday to remove the barrier. Picture: Paul Amos
Work will start on Monday to remove the barrier. Picture: Paul Amos

"But Highways England are doing it over the next couple of weeks and that is good news for motorists who use the motorway.

"The long term contingency should still involve a lorry park or a series of lorry parks so you can take lorries off the motorway but in an emergency Operation Brock will be better than Operation Stack was.”

Faversham and Mid Kent MP Helen Whately added: “This decision is good news for motorists.

"I know the barriers on the M20 have caused a lot of frustration, particularly to people who use the motorway to get to work.

"I’ve been lobbying the Transport Minister, along with other Kent MPs, to get it back to full capacity.

"It was absolutely right to prepare for any Brexit outcome, and Operation Brock was a key part of this.

"But with a working majority and a Brexit deal going through Parliament as we speak, traffic can move freely on this stretch of the motorway once again.

"Having a majority Conservative government is already helping to make life better for people.”

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