No post-Brexit queues at Dover but future disruption 'difficult to predict'

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Kit Bradshaw

Monday marked Kent's first major test since the end of the Brexit transition period on New Year's Eve.

New rules mean new customs paperwork is required for lorry drivers when they reach the Port of Dover or the Eurotunnel, that is in addition to the relatively recent requirements imposed by France to have a negative Covid test result

However, so far things appear to have been running fairly smoothly.

Chris Parker, Director of Capacity at DFDS said: “As we expected, the amount of traffic has dropped quite sharply since New Year’s Eve. It always happens in the New Year anyway but with the Brexit stockpiling we saw in December it’s even lower than it would normally be. We’re about 60% below what we’d normally have.”

The lower volume of lorries meant there were very few being directed into a newly-opened Inland Border Facility near Ashford on Monday morning, but there are worries as freight traffic starts to pick up again, there could be problems. 

Heidi Skinner, Policy Manager at Logistics UK said: “It is very difficult to predict what the next few weeks or months have in store. That’s why we’re doing our utmost to make sure the communication is right so hauliers understand what they need to have in place before they enter Kent, so they’re Border Ready when they get to either the Eurotunnel or Port of Dover.”

A negative Covid-19 test result is required before hauliers can cross the Channel to France Credit: ITV News Meridian

It had been feared as many as half the lorries arriving at the border after the end of the transition period would not have the required new customs paperwork.

However, early indications are that the vast majority are border ready.

The only hauliers being turned away are those who don't have the required negative coronavirus test result.

Those bound for Dover are meant to be diverted to Manston airfield to get checked, with drivers going to France via the Channel Tunnel being tested on the roadside on the M20.

At the weekend, additional Covid testing facilities were opened by the government at service stations elsewhere in England - a "vital" move according to Eurotunnel’s parent company. 

John Keefe, Director of Public Affairs at Getlink Group, said: “The current situation isn’t sustainable. You can’t shut a motorway to do testing. The process is very much to move that testing, as a last resort, to an inland site somewhere in Kent. But the first principle must be that the whole industry takes up the responsibility here and truck drivers get tested before they get anywhere near Kent.”

Cross Channel lorry movements are expected to increase markedly towards the end of the month, perhaps the real test of the new post-Brexit regime.