Operation Brock, a series of measures to keep Kent traffic moving in the event of post-Brexit disruption, has been activated. The move comes despite the fact that Brexit has been delayed a further three months until the end of January 2020.
One side of the M20 will be reserved for the flow of Europe-bound lorries and HGVs over 7.5 tonnes. Lorries headed across the channel will be restricted to 30mph between junction eight (Maidstone) and junction nine (Ashford). The London-bound side will be turned into a 50mph contraflow carrying the rest of traffic heading both ways.
This will keep regular in-England commuters ‘safe’ in the case of disruptions to haulage flow across the channel.
Operation Brock: next steps
Beyond this, it’s possible that Manston Airport could be used as a lorry park, while HGV traffic could be directed to the M26, which would be dedicated to cross-border haulage.
How long will it be active?
The last time Operation Brock went live was four days before the March 2019 Brexit deadline. In that instance, an extension was also granted. It’s possible, if not probable that, as in March, Operation Brock will be active for no longer than a month.
Operation Brock: Explained in full
Working closely with the Kent Resilience Forum, the government has implemented the scheme to minimise delays to Europe-bound freight, while protecting local roads from disruption.
Lorries heading for mainland Europe will need to use the coast-bound carriageway of the M20 between junctions eight and nine, with a 30mph speed restriction in place.
All other traffic will run on the London-bound carriageway between these junctions, with two lanes operating at 50mph.
The system goes live ahead of the UK’s exit from the European Union on 31 October. Delays on the M20 are widely predicted.
The M20 will be kept open in both directions for non-freight traffic, with Operation Brock designed to reduce the impact on local residents, businesses and public services in Kent.
Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “We want residents in Kent and hauliers travelling from across the EU to be reassured that there are robust plans in place to deal with any disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
“We now need everyone to do their bit – whether you are travelling to see family, heading to work or transporting vital goods around the country, please check before you travel to ensure you know what to expect and have the right documents when heading to the border.”
During Operation Brock, hauliers heading to Europe via Dover or the Channel Tunnel will need to follow the dedicated Operation Brock routes and adhere to any diversions, speed instructions or special instructions.
Hauliers are also advised that they will need to show the right paperwork before reaching the border. Non-compliance will result in fines and further delays.
Traffic officers in Kent will have new and enhanced powers to ensure hauliers comply with the Operation Brock system.
Local residents are advised that from 26 to 27 October there will be overnight closures between junctions seven and nine on the M20, as final works are completed ahead of Brexit.
Policy manager for South East England at Freight Transport Association Heidi Skinner said: “Any move which keeps traffic flowing to and from the coast, and through and around Kent, is to be welcomed in order to keep Britain trading.
“Our members have been asking for clarity on the arrangements for some time, so this news will help them to prepare for a potential no deal Brexit and any resulting traffic disruption which may occur.”