After more than a week of disruption, the last truck drivers who got stuck in their vehicles in Kent over Christmas are ready to cross the Channel and return home to France and beyond.
The backlog of trucks – 1,500 of which were lined up along the M20 at one point last week – was caused by the temporary closure of its borders by France on December 20 in response to the discovery of a variant of the coronavirus rapidly spreading in the UK.
But the Department of Transport (DfT) said on Monday that the systems put in place to bring the flow of traffic back to normal were keeping pace with demand.
It comes after the PA news agency reported that some 3,000 carriers were waiting to enter the Eurotunnel or access the port of Dover on Christmas Eve. Despite the easing of restrictions on 23 December and the reopening of borders, the large accumulation of trucks means that thousands of people were stranded in Dover and Folkestone for more than a week.
Under the new legislation, drivers wishing to enter France from Britain must now show proof of a negative Covid test taken within the last 72 hours. As of Monday, a total of 21,849 coronavirus tests on carriers had been carried out with 66 positive results – which is just 0.3% of those tested so far.
Some of the stranded drivers were detained at Manston Airport over Christmas week where they waited to receive tests before heading to Dover to board ferries.
DfT said there were only 59 HGVs left through Manston and the M20 waiting to cross to France, and added that on Monday a total of 14,659 HGVs had left via Dover and the Eurotunnel since the reopening both.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted on Sunday that the M20 motorway had been reopened, but warned those heading to Kent to follow updates from Kent County Council and Highways England.
“The current delay for Eurotunnel & Ferry is 30 minutes for the test result,” he added.
Volunteers from local communities – including the Salvation Army, Muslim group Al-Khair Foundation, HM Coastguard and Kent County Council – delivered thousands of hot meals and water to drivers stuck in their vehicles in the days before Christmas.
Tesco also provided 600 food packages, 24 pallets of commodities and thousands of sausage rolls, which were dispatched on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Images of truck drivers coming together to celebrate Christmas have taken to social media, with one particularly memorable image (as above) showing a group of men who had made a Christmas tree out of beer cans.