M20 traffic: Why is 23 mile stretch of Kent motorway closed and what has it got to do with P&O?

Thousands of lorries are continuing to queue along the M20 in Kent due to delays in Channel crossings.

Operation Brock, which aims to to manage the freight traffic heading to the Port of Dover, was activated on 25 March, when P&O suspended services.

A 23-mile coastbound stretch of the M20 is currently closed from junction 8 at Maidstone, to junction 11 at Westenhanger to store the lorries heading for the Port or Eurotunnel.

The 'Brock' system has been activated multiple times since its introduction almost three years ago.

What is Operation Brock?

Operation Brock is a precautionary measure to manage traffic disruption at the port of Dover.

Work began on Operation Brock in May 2018 and it officially replaced Operation Stack on 26 October 2019.

It is a contraflow system - effectively a movable barrier on the coastbound carriageway of the M20. It is designed to to keep non-freight traffic moving whilst also creating space for lorries to park, ultimately avoiding queues at the ferry terminal.

‘Brock’, can be put in quickly overnight and separates traffic into different lanes across both carriageways of the motorway.

The aim is that drivers who are travelling on the M20 - but not to the port or the Eurotunnel - should be able to continue their journey as normal.

According to National Highways, there are three statuses of Op Brock:

  • M20 is running as normal (no contraflow)

  • M20 is open but contraflow in use

  • M20 is closed.

Why is Operation Brock still in place?

A 23-mile coastbound stretch of the M20 is currently closed.

Operation Brock was launched on Monday 21 March 2022, because of the ongoing delays to Channel crossings following the suspension of P&O Ferries sailings.

It comes after the ferry operator sacked nearly 800 seafarers without notice last month.

The firm has three freight vessels currently stuck in the port, unable to sail until they pass full safety inspections.That is also putting more strain on other ferry operators amid increased demand as many families travel overseas for Easter holidays.

Since April 1, the Brock system has been overwhelmed, with Kent hit by long queues every day. Poor weather also disrupted crossings.

When will Operation Brock End?

The disruption comes after P&O Ferries sacked almost 800 workers. Credit: PA

The coastbound carriageway of the M20 in Kent is still closed, as it holds lorries waiting to cross the Channel. Currently, a 23 mile stretch of the motorway is shut with Operation Brock in place between junctions 8 and 11.

A DfT spokesperson said: “We are aware of queues at Dover, and the Kent Resilience Forum and local partners are working to minimise any disruption by deploying temporary traffic management measures as standard.

“This has been caused by a number of factors, including multiple ferries being out of action and congestion from many people travelling this half-term.”

In a statement, the Port of Dover said it is “expecting another busy weekend” and has urged customers not to arrive before their booked sailing.Dover District Council has warned the port will be “under severe pressure throughout the busy Easter getaway” and residents are being asked to prepare for “some disruption again this weekend”.Eurotunnel has said it is seeing its highest level of demand for three year and is advising people travelling to the port for passenger services to follow the usual diversions.

Until the three freight vessels are back in service there will continue to be a knock on effect to freight traffic, Eurotunnel said.