Operation Stack activated as M20 turns into car park with miles of lorries

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Lorries travelling from the UK to the continent are to be forced to queue down the M20 after police in Kent implemented Operation Stack following the closure of the Channel Tunnel and Port of Dover.

Kent Police implemented the emergency measure on the coastbound carriageway of the M20 between Junctions 8 and 11, saying it is a “contingency measure following the French government’s announcement it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK for the next 48 hours”.

It is hoped that Operation Stack, during which parts of the M20 will be used to queue lorries travelling towards the continent, will mean the motorway avoids huge gridlocks, KentLive reports.

During the emergency measures, freight within Operation Stack is separated into two queues on either side of the carriageway (on the hard shoulder and lane 3) – one for tunnel traffic and one for port traffic.

Space is left in the middle of the motorway to allow for emergency vehicles such as freight breaking down or medical emergencies and queues are released when capacity is available.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he will chair an emergency COBR meeting on Monday after European countries halted flights from the UK, the Dover ferry was closed and Eurotunnel access suspended at its Folkestone terminal on Sunday.

France is among a number of European countries to implement travel restrictions in the wake of a new mutant strain of coronavirus sweeping through South East England.

The country announced on Sunday it was suspending all traffic, including freight and passenger transport, from the UK for 48 hours.

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A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister will chair a COBR meeting tomorrow to discuss the situation regarding international travel, in particular the steady flow of freight into and out of the UK.

"Further meetings are happening this evening and tomorrow morning to ensure robust plans are in place.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) said Manston Airport was being prepared to accommodate “up to 4,000 lorries” as another measure to ease the congestion.

However due to the expected level of disruption, DfT also advised hauliers to avoid travel to Kent ports “until further notice”.

In a statement issued late on Sunday night, a Government spokesperson said: “We are expecting significant disruption in Kent following the announcement by the French Government that, from 11pm on Sunday, December 20, it will not accept any passengers from the UK for the next 48 hours.

“As a result we are urging everybody – including all hauliers – to avoid travelling to Kent ports until further notice.

“We are working closely with Kent Resilience Forum, Kent Council and Highways England to ensure contingency measures are urgently put in place to manage disruption, and the Prime Minister will chair a COBR meeting tomorrow to discuss the situation.”

Highways England, responsible for roads such as the M20, M2, A21, A2, A249 and A20, has stated: “Following the French Government’s announcement it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK for the next 48 hours we’re asking the public and particularly hauliers not to travel to Kent ports or other routes to France.

“We expect significant disruption in the area. We are working urgently with the Department for Transport, Kent Police and Kent County Council on contingency measures to minimise traffic disruption in the area.”

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