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More troops sent to Kent to help testing as lorry drivers face Christmas alone

Written by on 25 December 2020

Hundreds more troops are being deployed to help clear a backlog of hauliers who have been stuck in Kent since Sunday.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said the government is doing its “utmost” to try to get the drivers home for Christmas and had sent “special instructions to the Army to take control of testing and HGV management operations”.

But Duncan Buchanan, a policy director at the Road Haulage Association (RHA), has warned that several drivers will face spending Christmas Day in their cabs.

Sky News reporter Sadiya Chowdhury has been speaking to some of the stranded drivers.

It’s so quiet on the seafront in Dover that you wouldn’t know there are about 200 frustrated lorry drivers here.

Further up the road there are more, honking their horns at the entry to the ferry port with reports of vehicles trying to push in.

But along Old Folkestone Road, opposite the viaduct, they wait silently in their cabs.

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The lorry driver facing third day stuck on M20

Thousands of lorry drivers are stuck at the border in Dover. Their vehicles have moved mere metres in four days.

The port is within sight but with streams of queues joining up at the top, they could be waiting a long time yet.

A group of Polish drivers step out for cigarettes.

“This is just politics,” one of them says. “EU versus Britain… not coronavirus.”

Are they talking about Brexit, I enquire, and a series of grunts echo in agreement.

Marcin is desperate to return to his family, who live near Warsaw.

“My wife keeps calling me to ask if there’s any news. I have nothing new to tell her,” he says.

For some Polish families, Christmas Eve is a bigger occasion than Christmas Day so I want to know how he feels about spending this time alone and awaiting a COVID test. Suddenly he’s not up to answering any more questions.

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Lorries on Kent runway as M20 queue goes on

David is from Spain and speaks very little English, but with the help of a photo he tells me he has two children, aged 10 and four.

He gestures to the front of the queue. “What can I do? I have to wait for a test.”

“I just want to go home,” he adds, as he reveals an all too common Christmas wish around here.

Our chat is interrupted by a local woman’s swearing toward the drivers.

“It’s not their fault,” I offer, at which her volume shoots up.

David gets back into his cab and closes the door. He turns down my request for a photo.

Maten has family on board.

Maten and Medekha think they will not be home for Christmas
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Maten and Medekha don’t think they will be home for Christmas

He and Medekha sit next to each other and talk quickly to each other in French.

“Christmas?” I ask. They confer.

“Here, probably,” says Maten. “We are from Belgium so we don’t think we will be getting home for Christmas.”

Maten points inside the cab.

“This, just this. This is where we will spend Christmas,” he says.

I catch Tsvetan as he is dusting his cab, unhappy about having to pay GBP89 in parking charges.

But when I mention a traditional Bulgarian Christmas, his face lights up: “Maybe I will be home in time.”

Just then, as if by a Christmas miracle, the queue starts to move.

“I have to go,” he says and hurries back up to his driver’s seat to roll his lorry forward.

It’s moving at such a slow pace that I walk along with it.

“Can I take a photo of you?” I shout out.

“Yes, yes!” he chirps, before putting his lorry into park, jumping out and giving a thumbs up for the camera.