UK suffers three-mile lorry queues after test of Brexit border controls
Lorry drivers were left queuing for around three miles yesterday after a test of just one part of Brexit border controls. Trucks were stacked almost bumper to bumper along the M20 when French authorities trialled a new system at the Channel Tunnel. Highways England said traffic was backed up to junction 11 of the motorway, around three miles from the entrance to the port.
Entry and exit sliproads at Junction 11 were closed due to the number of HGVs parked on the hard shoulder. The delays were caused by French authorities conducting tests on border checking procedures on the British side, as is standard. A spokesman for Getlink, which operates the Channel Tunnel, said: “The backlog (of traffic) built up this morning during tests conducted by the authorities in preparation for Brexit.”
The queues were due to preparations for Brexit (Image: PA)
The spokesman said by Tuesday afternoon traffic was flowing “smoothly” through the terminal and services were operating as normal.
Further intermittent border tests will be carried out before the Brexit transition period comes to an end on December 31. The queues may be just a taste of things to come when the UK leaves EU rules at 11pm on New Year’s Eve. Whether a trade deal is agreed or not, the UK is still leaving the EU’s single market and customs union.
That will mean new paperwork and checks for trucks crossing the Channel with vital goods and food.
Many checks will be able to be carried out before or after the crossing itself. But truckers will need a ‘Kent passport’ to enter the port county and could end up in a lorry park to clear a backlog. Michael Gove, responsible for no-deal planning, said in September the “reasonable worst-case scenario” warned of possible two-day delays for cargo or 7,000-truck queues.
The “reasonable worst-case scenario” warned of possible two-day delays for cargo or 7,000-truck queues (Image: PA)
According to The Guardian, the controls tested yesterday take up to 70 seconds per passenger.
They require truck drivers to provide passports, and be asked about proof of means, their destination and length of stay. Highways England said in a statement: “The Port of Dover has informed us that new trial software for border checks has been identified as causing the delays, meaning 100% checks are under way.” It said the test took place between 6am and 3pm on Tuesday and was carried out by Police Aux Frontieres, with tests also conducted at the Port of Dover.
Highways England tweeted: “M20 coastbound at J11 Westenhanger – the entry slip is now closed due to heavy congestion in the area due to delays at Eurotunnel.
“Due to the heavy congestion with HGV’s at this location, for safety reasons we have also closed the exit slip at J11 Westenhanger due to the amount of lorry’s parking up along the hard shoulder all the way back to exit slip.”
The Channel Tunnel connects Folkestone to Coquelles near Calais in France.