Home   Dover   News   Article

Emergency planners say they have learned lessons from the unexpected border shutdown that brought gridlock to Dover in December


More news, no ads

LEARN MORE

Emergency planners say they have learned lessons from the unexpected border shutdown that brought gridlock to Dover and left thousands of hauliers stranded and unable to cross the channel.

A report on how the major incident which started in the week before Christmas was dealt with highlights a number of issues that contributed to traffic chaos in Dover and severe disruption on the main routes to the Channel ports.

Lorries queue at Dover. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Lorries queue at Dover. Picture: Barry Goodwin

The report praises staff from the emergency services and from the county council, saying they went above and beyond their duties to help out during the unprecedented shutdown, which lasted several days.

The findings, due to be considered by county councillors next week, records the emergency services were stretched by a combination of different issues that converged at the same time.

These included work being done to prepare for moving into ‘Tier 4’ restrictions; finalising preparations for Brexit and preparing for the arrival of Storm Bella.

Resources were also stretched as many staff from the council and other partners were taking leave over the holiday period before the official EU exit on January 1.

Despite this, the report says KCC and its partners were able to respond quickly to the growing queues of HGVs while the new requirement to overlay COVID-19 testing was resolved.

Lorries queue up at the Port of Dover in December. Picture: UKNIP
Lorries queue up at the Port of Dover in December. Picture: UKNIP

It said: “Great agility, flexibility and support was shown to develop and implement a testing policy and approach, acceptable to the French, within 24 hours. The availability and readiness of the Manston site ahead of EU transition was also important.”

At the same time, the report acknowledges that emergency planners were not as well prepared for dealing with the build up of non-HGV traffic.

It stated: “Traffic management plans in existence at the time did not give consideration to a complete closure of the border nor provision for the volume of non-HGV traffic that could accumulate in Dover if that occurred.”

KCC said that in the following days “traffic quickly built up in Kent and particularly in Dover Town and the surrounding roads, which had detrimental impacts on the community in the days that followed.”

On the issue of the welfare of drivers who were trapped in queues, there were initially problems with the distribution of meals as caterers were themselves caught up by the restrictions on travel under ‘Tier 4’ being implemented.

Lorries were stacked up on Dover's streets bringing the town to gridlock
Lorries were stacked up on Dover's streets bringing the town to gridlock

“This impacted on the food that could be provided quickly. In addition, existing plans had food provision as a last resort, the focus being to get traffic moving, hence the provision of food in first 24-hours was limited to a high energy cereal bar for HGV drivers, alongside provision of water.”

However, in subsequent days, some 12,000 meals were provided on one day.

The French authorities introduced a blockade that lasted 48-hours and when lifted, said HGV drivers would need proof that they had not tested positive for the coronavirus in the previous 72 hours before travelling.

The report concludes:"The events before and over Christmas could be rightly termed ‘unprecedented.’ But it important that we learn key lessons that can help shape our response to future incidents."

For planned road closures and other public notices, click here.

Keep up- to-date with developments on transport and stories that will impact how you travel

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More