Published: 15:08, 21 July 2021
| Updated: 16:10, 21 July 2021
Operation Brock should be removed from the M20 “as soon as humanly possible” because changes to France quarantine rules mean it is now unnecessary, according to Ashford’s MP.
Frustrated drivers are facing narrow lanes and a 50mph limit again between Junctions 8 and 9 after Highways England reinstalled the concrete barrier over the weekend.
The decision was taken by the Kent Resilience Forum (KRF) as it prepared for a surge in cross-Channel travel amid lockdown restrictions easing and the start of the school holidays.
But MP Damian Green says the stretch between his constituency and Maidstone should be cleared immediately.
His feelings hinge on the restrictions the government recently put on those travelling to France – namely that even those double-vaccinated have to quarantine upon their return.
Speaking in parliament on Monday, Mr Green said: “It is unarguable that the effect of imposing quarantine on travellers to France will be to significantly reduce the numbers of those wanting to travel.
“With that in mind, does my honourable friend agree that the imposition of Operation Brock on the M20 in Kent, which is designed to cope with long queues at Dover or the tunnel, was a trifle premature, and that Operation Brock should therefore be removed as soon as is humanly possible?”
In response to Mr Green’s question, Robert Courts, the undersecretary of state for the Department for Transport, said: “I know that it matters a great deal to his constituents and that he has been a leading voice in campaigning on it. I recognise the disruption to his constituents.
“It is a precautionary decision by the KRF in advance of the summer holidays.
“The KRF will keep the decision under review and will deploy Operation Brock for as short a period as possible.
“I entirely recognise the strength of feeling on this matter.
“I know that the minister for Kent will be arranging a meeting between the KRF and other interested MPs as soon as possible.”
The KRF, which is a partnership of organisations including Kent County Council that aims to keep the county’s roads moving, says the barrier won’t be removed immediately.
Toby Howe, senior highways manager at KCC, said: “As soon as we are confident there isn’t that rise in traffic we will be able to remove the barrier.
“There is no intention just to leave it out for the sake of it.
“So it might only be out for two weeks, three weeks, maybe, but as soon as we can we’ll remove it.”
'I suspect travel to France will actually be pretty minimal...'
Furthermore, a KRF spokeswoman said: “We continue to keep the travel situation under close review and remain committed to taking a precautionary approach to today’s lifting of most remaining Covid restrictions and the inevitable increase in traffic.
“We are very aware that travel this summer will be a bit different and, with the start of school holidays, we believe this is the right thing to do to support the Department for Transport in managing the strategic network, keep Kent moving and protect local communities.
“We thank all residents and drivers for their patience and assure everyone our objective is to remove the barrier, and get Kent’s roads back to normal, as soon as we consider it safe to do so.”
But Mr Green stood by his original suggestion that Operation Brock be stood down immediately, describing the return of the scheme as “unnecessary”.
“Two to three weeks is too long,” he told KentOnline's sister title the Kentish Express on Monday.
“We’ll know in a few days whether there’s huge demand that Dover and the Channel Tunnel can’t cope with, and I suspect travel to France will actually be pretty minimal.”