Published: 16:47, 05 January 2021
| Updated: 16:49, 05 January 2021
The leader of Kent County Council says there are “promising signs” that post-Brexit disruption and delays around the Channel ports may not be as severe as some have predicted.
Despite several days of mayhem before Christmas which saw gridlock in Dover and thousands of lorries parked on the M20 and at Manston airfield, there has been no repetition of the chaos and the port at Dover and Eurotunnel have both been operating normally.
Cllr Roger Gough said the first week marking the return to work for many had been seen as a potential flashpoint.
Traffic levels through the Port of Dover and the Channel tunnel have been far lower than in previous years, suggesting hauliers may have paused journeys to avoid being caught up in delays.
Cllr Gough said: “At the moment, things are really in quite a good state.
"But we have always said the first few days of January are not going to be the real test; it was always likely to be a quiet time of year.
"Having had a build-up of freight in the week before Christmas, then the French government’s decision to put on that embargo, a huge amount of activity then took place before Christmas.”
Since then, however, there had been some “promising signs” with the take-up of the Kent Access Permit suggesting hauliers were aware of new post-Brexit arrangements.
“The numbers are low so we are deliberately being quite cautious, with an emphasis on ensuring that the elements of infrastructure that are needed are in place.”
A lorry park at Sevington in Ashford - one of the government’s Inland Border Facilities - opened on Monday but has seen only a handful of hauliers using it.
The opening of 23 sites for drivers to get tested for Covid outside the county has also had an impact. The French authorities have yet to lift a condition that anyone travelling to France must have had a negative test in the previous 72 hours.
In another indication that hauliers appear to be aware of the need to park on official sites, just 29 penalty notices were issued to drivers on Monday. Of these, 16 were for exceeding drivers’ hours; ten were for failing to have the Kent Access Permit.
Cllr Rob Bird, opposition Liberal Democrat group leader on KCC, said it was too early to pass judgement on the contingency plans.
“Most of us are expecting nothing to happen in the first weeks of January. If the new lockdown results in factories shutting down, that will further reduce the amount of freight traffic and tourist traffic is also down.”