EU exit in Kent
What has changed?
The United Kingdom (UK) left the European Union (EU), following the Brexit transition period which ended on 31 December 2020. New rules on trade, travel and business for the UK and the EU are now in place.
Information about the changes can be found on the gov.uk website: https://www.gov.uk/brexit
Keeping Kent moving and protecting communities
As the UK adjusts to life outside of the EU and continues to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, Kent Resilience Forum partners’ priority remains to keep Kent’s roads moving - as smoothly as possible.
As a key gateway to the Continent, Kent is nationally strategically important, with 90 per cent of UK truck freight trade passing thought the Short Straits at the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel.
As well as helping to keep these critical cross-Channel trade routes flowing, the multi-agency KRF works to ensure local communities and businesses are protected from disruption and the county’s valuable visitor economy thrives.
KRF partners stand ready to support the Department for Transport to meet its responsibilities on its strategic road network, helping to keep Kent moving and protecting local communities.
To ensure Kent was prepared for any disruption caused by new border arrangements at the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel, Kent Resilience Forum (KRF) partners - including Kent Police, Kent County Council (KCC) and National Highways (previously Highways England) - worked together with government to devise an escalating series of traffic management plans known as Operation Fennel.
Operation Brock and the quick moveable barrier
Operation Brock is a traffic management plan, which may be activated at times of cross-Channel disruption if there are significant delays. It includes the option to deploy a quick moveable barrier and contraflow system on the M20 to keep traffic moving. The plans are flexible and can be activated depending on the volume and impact on flows around the county, particularly traffic leaving the country via the Kent-based ports.
Ahead of busy periods on cross-Channel routes, Kent Resilience Forum partners may decide to put out the Brock contraflow between Junctions 8-9 of the M20. When this is active, it controls controlling how port-bound HGVs make their way to Dover and Folkestone, while allowing traffic not going to the ferries or shuttle to continue its journey as normal.
A lot of factors and information feed in to the decision-making process on whether to install the contraflow, which is created by a moveable barrier. Passenger booking forecasts and average check-in times at border inspection booths are just two important considerations. Should the data show there is a risk of serious disruption, National Highways crews will deploy the barrier, usually quickly overnight on a Saturday. This is the quietest time of the week for traffic, particularly freight.
As happened in December 2020, when France suddenly shut its border over concerns about the Alpha COVID variant, the contraflow can also be installed to manage a live incident. However, because of the complications of putting traffic management controls in place when the carriageway is backed-up with vehicles, KRF partners will always do their best to plan to have the contraflow up and running before queues start to build.
For more details about Operation Brock, visit the National Highways website here
Driver welfare plans
The KRF has tried and tested multi-agency plans in place to respond to driver welfare issues on Kent’s roads.
Kent County Council (KCC) coordinates the contributions of numerous, diverse organisations - from the Salvation Army and South East Water, to aid organisations, supermarkets and businesses - on behalf of the KRF, to ensure drivers caught up in severe disruption have access to emergency supplies of food and water.
Just like other local resilience forums and local authorities across the country, the KRF - and KCC - have a long tradition of working with voluntary organisations. Charities have strong community networks, access to a range of resources and dedicated staff. For all these reasons, they are an integral part of Kent’s emergency response capacity, including the KRF Driver Welfare Plan. This welfare is delivered directly to drivers by a range of KRF partners whose staff are highly experienced at working on the road network. This includes the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Kent Search & Rescue and South East 4x4.
When severe disruption is ongoing, and local resources are stretched to maximum, there are plans in place for securing central government assistance, including from the Army.
Next steps in the planning process
The KRF continues to meet regularly to ensure it has all the necessary plans in place to help mitigate any future disruption.
Easing of overseas travel restrictions and international tourism could see potentially high volumes of tourist traffic heading across the Channel, via Dover and Folkestone,
The KRF will monitor the situation closely and has plans in place to manage potential traffic disruption due to passport and health checks increasing the time it takes passengers to clear border controls, including at Kent ports, along with other factors that could cause travel delays.
Other factors include severe weather, industrial action and potential delays due to changes in regulations, such as new import requirements.