Long tailbacks as Brexit lorry operation to slow parts of major motorway to 30mph overruns

Motorists faced “traffic chaos” during the Monday morning rush hour as work to prepare the M20 for potential queues after a no-deal Brexit overran by almost two hours. The Operation Brock roadworks, between junction 7 and junction 9 (from Maidstone to Ashford) in Kent, were supposed to be lifted at 6am on Monday. However, there was traffic backed up on the motorway more than an hour later as part of the road was still closed due to the works overrunning.

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The traffic measures are designed to keep the M20 open in both directions in case there is any disruption to services across the English Channel in the unlikely event that Britain leaves the EU on 31 October. Lorries heading for Europe will face a 30mph limit on a 13-mile stretch of the coast-bound carriage.

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All other traffic on the motorway – including lorries carrying out UK deliveries – must use a 50mph contraflow of two lanes in each direction on the London-bound side of the road. Several holding areas to park lorries are also available to be activated if required, including at Manston Airfield.

Hauliers must be ready to show they have the correct paperwork before reaching the border or face being turned back.

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Motorists have been warned to allow for extra travel time and to make sure they have food and water in their vehicles in case of delays. Traffic cameras showed queues backed up on the M20 coast-bound as well as an empty stretch of the motorway which was still closed an hour after it was supposed to reopen.

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Some motorists complained of “traffic chaos” – with one person saying the works had overrun “on the worst morning of the week”.

Others took to Twitter to complain that the works were a “complete waste of time” since it is “unlikely” Britain will leave the EU on Thursday. In a post to Highways England, one Twitter user said: “Not only have you implemented something that isn’t necessary you’ve caused chaos this morning by overrunning.”

Highways England posted an update at about 8am to say the works had been completed.

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Operation Brock was initially deployed on 25 March – four days ahead of the first planned Brexit date.

It was deactivated about three weeks later following the delay to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, but the steel barriers for the contraflow system and 50mph speed limit remain in place.

The same could happen again, as parliament is due to vote Monday on whether to hold a snap general election.

Highways England south east operations director Nicola Bell said: “Operation Brock is part of a set of measures put in place to allow the M20 and the rest of Kent to keep moving in the event of cross-channel disruption.

“We have worked extensively with our partners in Kent to ensure that the county is as prepared as possible for any disruption to cross-channel services.”

Additional reporting by Press Association.

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