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Operation Stack in force after MyFerryLink strike disrupts Dover to Calais ferry crossings

After five days Operation Stack has been lifted, with the M20 fully opened.

Police have announced Op Stack is "no longer in place", with all junctions along the M20 now open.

However, they are warning drivers to still expect delays for a while.

The end of Stack? Picture: Kent Police Roads
The end of Stack? Picture: Kent Police Roads

A spokesman said: "All phases of Operation Stack have now been lifted. This means both London-bound and coast-bound carriageways of the M20 are now open, following the closures between junctions 8 and 11.

"There may still be residual delays in the area while the road network returns to normal."

Police said this evening the French government has temporarily suspended a law which restricts freight movement in order to clear the backlog of vehicles in both countries.

The move will end days of misery for lorry drivers, who have been caught up in a giant lorry park, with both sides of the motorway shut at one stage.

Grateful members of the public have been tweeting Kent Police since the announcement to thank them for their efforts.

One user said: "You've made so many people happy. Thanks." Another concluded with: "Hope you don't have to do it all again next week."

All lanes of the London-bound M20 were opened earlier today, and the coast-bound carriageway had already been reopened between J9 and J11.

It was after it was revealed the strike by French ferry workers is costing the UK economy around a quarter of a billion pounds every day.

It was earlier thought the coast-bound stretch of the M20 would remain shut until Sunday or early next week.

But the nightmare that has kept truckers in a huge lorry park for days has also cost businesses hugely.

Port of Dover Chief Executive Tim Waggott said: "It's not so much what the Port of Dover has lost: the Port of Dover is an infrastructure provider, it has a certain amount of turnover and we make our money by trade flowing through the port.

Coastguard and police get water to lorry drivers on the M20. Picture: @kentpoliceroads
Coastguard and police get water to lorry drivers on the M20. Picture: @kentpoliceroads

"More significantly to me is the value of freight handled by Dover annually which is independently assessed as around £100 billion a year so every day that Dover doesn't operate fully, it can cost the UK economy around £250 million which is a quarter of a billion pounds a day, that's a lot of money."

It comes after the Port of Calais reopened, with sailings resuming.

In a statement last night, ferry company P&O said it had resumed its standard timetable.

But despite the good news, authorities managing Operation Stack say it could take days to clear the backlog of lorries on the M20.

Andrew Broughton, Highways England spokesman, said: "Speaking to the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel, the current backlog will take until about Sunday to clear."

Kent Fire and Rescue Service say they have allocated resources to the operation until at least Tuesday.

"We've been there since Monday, we've got resources planned until Tuesday next week as we move into the recovery phase today and tomorrow" - Lee Rose, Kent Fire and Rescue

Lee Rose, from Kent Fire and Rescue, said: "We've been there since Monday, we've got resources planned until Tuesday next week as we move into the recovery phase today and tomorrow.

"From our perspective we will review it at the weekend with our partners and I'm confident and we can review our assets and our resources right up another couple of weeks until we have too."

The government called a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee to discuss the situation in France.

Home Secretary Theresa May visited France earlier this week to meet her French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve and discuss the migrant situation in Calais, reiterating that migrants should be dissuaded from making the journey to Europe.

She said: "People are putting their lives in the hands of organised criminals, of criminal gangs, they're paying the money, they're making dangerous journeys to come to Europe.

"We must ensure that they don't try to make that journey, which is a dangerous one, and that they see that that journey will not lead to settlement in Europe."

More than 13,000 bottles of water and 6,000 meals were delivered to lorry drivers caught up in Operation Stack.

Kent Fire and Rescue has a specialist crew on standby, providing a range of services such as first aid, including a defibrillator, health and safety, and fast emergency response.

They were needed on Wednesday when a lorry driver reported a suspected heart attack, which was found to be a false alarm.

Tuesday's introduction of phase 3 of the scheme - which held truckers in a queue during industrial action at Calais - was the first of its kind.

Rescue services mounted a huge logistical exercise to ensure lorry drivers had enough water to keep them safe in the heat.

Lorry drivers were given rations including a piece of fruit, can of drink, sandwiches, crisps, and energy bars.

KCC Senior Resilience Officer Steve Scully said at the time: "The good news is the drivers are used to Stack and they are generally self-sufficient for the first 24 to 48 hours so this is emergency welfare provision and not a five-course dinner for them.

“This is a much more protracted event this time round and I expect to deliver something in the region of well over 1,00 meals and in excess of 20,000 bottles of water for the lifetime of Stack. But of course we don’t know when Stack is going to end.

"Partly because of the weather, this is the most difficult Stack we've had to deal with."

As many as 40 police officers are involved in Operation Stack.

The UK Coastguard is helping with the distribution of food and water to gridlocked truckers - forced to sit in overheating cabs for hours after the M20 was turned into a massive car park.

Rescue teams from Dungeness, Margate and Sheppey are joining police and other agencies to reach the drivers.

The so-called "humanitarian" mission is being led by KCC, but includes police, fire and coastguard support.

Video: How Operation Stack looks from the skies. Footage - Simon Burchett

The Red Cross has also helped out, with three voluntary sector vehicles commissioned to attend certain nearby locations off the motorway and deliver tea, coffee and snacks.

KCC Senior Resilience Officer Steve Scully said: “Our partners have been helping us from the outset to deliver the items which is a difficult job considering the number of drivers who have been held up at one stage or another and we have made sure those with the longest wait and in the most need have been helped first.

“We have also had some food retailers arriving and handing out items which is great but in a bid to ease traffic issues in the area, we ask anyone with offers to help to contact us on 01622 212409 so this can be properly managed."

Water is taken to the truckers. Picture: @kentpoliceroads
Water is taken to the truckers. Picture: @kentpoliceroads

Freight drivers entering Stack will not immediately need any welfare provided, depending on weather conditions and they are urged to ensure they are properly self-equipped with food and water.

Tracy Hawke-Treneer, Watch Officer, Dover Coastguard said late last night: “We are currently helping Kent Police to distribute food and water.

"As an emergency service we have the capability to respond to major incidents when needed, however this does not impact on our maritime search and rescue response capabilities.

Supermarket giant Tesco has also donated a load of bottled water to the Road Hauliers Association, and will be handing it out to lorry drivers trapped in Stack.

Freight traffic is being held in a stack on the M20. Picture: Paul Amos
Freight traffic is being held in a stack on the M20. Picture: Paul Amos

Helder Velho, Tesco Distribution Director said: "We were pleased to work in partnership with the Road Haulage Association and local police service to deliver over 3,000 bottles of water.

Video: Dover residents on the effects of Stack on the area

"Serving our community is extremely important to us and as drivers ourselves we empathise with the challenges they're facing."

Video: How to stay cool in the heat of Operation Stack

Protesters start a fire at the Eurotunnel French terminal
Protesters start a fire at the Eurotunnel French terminal

One unfortunate soul, Alice Wingate, was on her way from Suffolk to Arras in France.

She left at 11am on Wednesday, and was still in the thick of the queue - nearly 24 hours after joining it.

Ms Wingate, who was on her way to a festival to set up a stand, said she had been given a bottle of water, and a kindly policeman gave her sandwiches.

Other than that she had survived on one custard cream.

She said she was keeping cool by sitting outside in the shade, with one portable toilet to share with other drivers.

On Tuesday, protesters started a fire on the tracks near the entrance to the tunnel.

They were later removed from the French terminal.

The grim news comes hot on the heels of the announcement the original restrictions would remain in place until at least later that day.

Operation Stack was brought in on Monday after MyFerryLink strikers at the port of Calais caused disruption to ferry crossings.

Another driver stuck in the queues was Mike Whybrow, who has been in the chaos for 12 hours on the French side.

Mike, 27, from Brenzett, has suffered being stuck fast in sweltering heat as one of thousands of drivers stranded on either side of the Channel.

Speaking to us from the Port of Dunkirk he said: “It is absolutely scorching out here but when you open your window you get bitten by mosquitoes.

Soon, waiting truckers will have more shade. Picture: @thisisparsons
Soon, waiting truckers will have more shade. Picture: @thisisparsons

“You have a choice of that or closing your window and getting cooked inside your own vehicle. I have given up and opened my window at times and got bitten and otherwise kept cool by pouring water over my head

“There are no toilets provided here and no one is coming to provide us more supplies of water. At least I have enough food.”

Mr Whybrow first got stuck on the E42 road near Lille at 11.30pm yesterday and finally arrived at Dunkirk 13 hours later.

He was hoping to catch a ferry from there to avoid the heart of the chaos in Calais but the gridlock has spilled over.

An aerial view of Operation Stack on the M20. Picture: Simon Burchett.
An aerial view of Operation Stack on the M20. Picture: Simon Burchett.

He said: “The traffic queue now stretches all the way from Calais to Belgium. “We have been usually at a standstill or are crawling at snail’s pace.”

His overall journey is from Modena in northern Italy, near Milan, to Crewe in England to deliver car spare parts to Bentley.

Roads on both sides of the Channel are gridlocked because of a strike by French workers from the company MyFerryLink who are protesting against redundancy.

Mr Whybrow commented: “I cannot believe how they are allowed to get away with it. It just could not happen in the UK."

The port of Calais was not expected to open until tomorrow and Operation Stack has been implemented in Kent.

Dover MP Charlie Elphicke has said repeated disruption at Calais could cause hauliers and holidaymakers to look for alternatives.

Police shut off the motorway at J8
Police shut off the motorway at J8
Several lines have been shut on the M20. Stock image
Several lines have been shut on the M20. Stock image

"Clearly the Dover Calais route is very important to our country from the point of view of bringing in essential foodstuffs and products," he said.

"What we're seeing is, if this carries on, Dunkirk will be increasingly favoured and Calais will be less favoured."

Operation Stack in effect on the M20
Operation Stack in effect on the M20

Listen to KMFM for regular travel updates

The Pride of Kent ferry
The Pride of Kent ferry
Dover to Calais crossings have been severely affected
Dover to Calais crossings have been severely affected

He also warned there could be a repeat of last week's chaotic scenes where migrants attempted to board lorries trapped in queues at Calais.

"It's such a pity we have this situation that's carrying on yet again. It's unnecessary, and it's worrying for hauliers who will be worried migrants might try to jump onto their lorries."

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