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Overflow lorry park cleared leaving hauliers free to head towards Dover

Written by on 26 December 2020

An overflow lorry park for freight drivers waiting to cross into France has been closed, leaving them free to head back towards Dover.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that by 9am on Boxing Day, all hauliers had left Manston airfield – the site used to manage disruption in Kent caused by France’s travel and partial trade ban.

He added that 15,526 coronavirus tests have now been carried out on drivers, yielding 36 positive results which “are being verified”.

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By 9am on Boxing Day, the backlog was cleared. Pic: Grant Shapps

“Manston now empty and lorries should no longer head there please,” the cabinet minister said in a tweet.

Mr Shapps thanked “everyone who’s worked tirelessly over the past few days to reduce the huge disruption”.

DOVER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 24: Ferries cross the English Channel on December 24, 2020 in Dover, United Kingdom. Travel from the UK to France gradually resumed on Wednesday morning after being suspended for more than two days due to concerns about a new strain of covid-19. The British government deployed its Track and Trace team to administer Covid-19 tests to lorry drivers  waiting to cross at Dover. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
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Some travel from the UK to Fance began to resume on Wednesday morning

“Police, military, planners, councils, charities, border staff – all have rallied to bring food and drink to stranded hauliers,” he said.

The number of lorries still waiting to cross into France is now at a manageable enough number – around 1,600 – that they can join a queue on the M20.

More from Kent

Freight lorries remain queued up on the M20 motorway, southbound, leading to the Port of Dover at Mersham in south east England on December 24, 2020, as rail and sea links between the UK and France are to remain open over Christmas to clear the backlog of thousands of trucks stranded by a new strain of coronavirus. - Thousands of European truckers on Wednesday spent a fourth night sleeping in the cabs of their vehicles, which are stuck close to the major cross-Channel port of Dover while the drivers wait to pass a Covid test, as required by France for travel. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
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Hundreds of lorries were queuing up on the approach to Dover

Havoc was sprung on Kent’s roads last weekend when a new coronavirus variant discovered in southeast England led to dozens of countries quickly shutting their borders with Britain.

While most exempted hauliers, France did not, meaning any accompanied freight driven in a truck or lorry could not pass through for 48 hours.

Frantic negotiations were set up as the UK tried to get its neighbour to unblock the trade route – particularly vital in the run up to Christmas and with the end of the Brexit transition period looming.

The situation worsened as a backlog of over 5,000 lorries built up, prompting fears about potential food shortages, while the government urged people not to travel to Kent ports.

DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 24: A firefighter swabs a lorry driver to test for Covid-19 on December 24, 2020 in Dover, United Kingdom. Travel from the UK to France is gradually resuming after being suspended due to concerns about a new strain of Covid-19. The British government deployed its Track and Trace team to administer Covid-19 tests to lorry drivers waiting to cross at Dover. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
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Drivers now have to deliver a negative COVID-19 test to cross the Channel

An agreement was then struck allowing accompanied freight to start travelling over the Channel by ferry or train again, provided drivers returned a negative lateral flow test.

But the backlog took days to clear, with many drivers stranded away from home over the festive period and some scuffles breaking out with police.