Emergency road measures to manage post-Brexit queues in Kent have been restarted by the government to deal with potential holiday traffic – despite Friday’s decision to further restrict cross-Channel travel to France.
Barriers on the M20 were erected this weekend for Operation Brock, a decision taken Thursday “in anticipation of an increase in international motorist travel from Monday,” according to Highways England.
Next weekend would normally be the busiest for passenger traffic in ports, at the start of most summer school holidays, while tomorrow’s ‘freedom day’ is expected to mean more traffic on the roads. from Kent. However, demand could be further dampened by the UK government’s announcement that France would be excluded from the policy that allows vaccinated travelers to travel to Orange List countries without quarantine upon their return.
Eurotunnel said it had not had immediate cancellations, but added: “We have seen significantly lower booking levels this year, so we did not anticipate traffic congestion. “
The carriers claim to have had no delays due to traffic on the way to the ports.
The government said the turnaround in its travel policy was due to the existence of cases of the beta variant in France.
A spokesperson for Eurotunnel, who had warned that the decision “would ruin the summer” for many people, said he did not understand the sudden decision. He said: “We talked to the government all the time and we got no opinion, and we asked what the rationale was behind it.
“We are baffled. There is no evidence that the variant is a problem in France. Not only is it very low, it is falling.
Richard Ballantyne, Managing Director of the British Ports Association, said: “The latest rule change regarding travel to France is particularly unnecessary. Shipping operators have worked hard to adapt to the ever-changing cross-border arrangements, but this move is another blow. “
Airlines’ anger increased over the weekend, with global body Iata claiming the UK was an ‘outlier’ without ‘consistent policy’. Its chief executive, Willie Walsh, said: “The government is turning around and making life impossible for people… and destroying its own travel industry and the thousands of jobs that depend on it.
Outrage was also felt across the Channel, where French newspapers and politicians blasted the UK. Center-right newspaper Le Figaro said: “Boris Johnson has once again shown that he can say anything and the opposite. Friday morning, he confirmed that July 19 would be “freedom day”… Friday evening, he punished travelers from France, as if the much vaunted British vaccine protection no longer existed.
Professor Neil Ferguson, speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday, said there were concerns about the beta variant, despite the low numbers, as it could prove resistant to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
He said: “It’s not going up in France, in fact Delta is their concern. These variants compromise the vaccines slightly… Beta does it more than Delta, which could be a concern in the fall.