Sir Roger Gale
Member of Parliament for North Thanet (Margate, Herne Bay & The Villages)
Send on behalf of the Kent Resilience Forum Strategic Planning Group to all Kent MPs
April 6th 2022
By way of an update on the disruption seen across Kent over the past few days. The Kent Resilience Forum has been attempting to mitigate the impact of a number of key events including the Easter getaway, increased volumes of freight, the continued absence of critical P&O ferry capacity at the Port of Dover, storm conditions and a period of snow and ice.
In anticipation of the Easter getaway the Brock barrier was deployed in the lead up to the start of the Easter school holiday. In order to manage the in volumes of freight Brock held and released vehicles until the various exits portals were safe and had sufficient capacity.
At the end of last week a severe weather event in the channel disrupted ferry movements and also saw a ferry damaged and taken out of service for the weekend. This is at the same time as three P&O ferries remained off line.
This impact of this storm and overnight snow related traffic incidents saw a backlog of vehicles seeking to exit the country. Many drivers took matters into their own hands and chose to avoid the stipulated routes. This resulted in routes to Dover becoming overrun with errant HGV’s. Dover town was hugely disrupted, whilst the Port of Dover’s ability to process vehicles as quickly as possible was significantly reduced. We also saw disruption across the county at Ashford, Maidstone, and at Faversham where errant vehicles disrupted traffic flows at Brenley Corner.
Over the course of the weekend additional measures were introduced to respond to the various traffic issues. Additional front line staff were deployed to reinforce driver compliance, welfare was distributed to drivers and further capacity on the strategic road network was used to hold HGV’s.
In many instances our ability to provide welfare and associated facilities has not been possible due to the safety consequences. Queues continued to move making it a difficult and dangerous environment to either deploy or distribute welfare. Where it was safe and appropriate we have provided welfare to drivers.
DFDS and Irish ferries adjusted schedules and Eurotunnel maximised the available train stock and by Sunday much of the backlog had been cleared.
We are thankful to DFDS for quickly returning the damaged ferry back to service whilst also accelerating the return of a ferry that was undergoing its annual maintenance and retrofitting.
Similarly, it is important to note that Eurotunnel, DFDS and Irish Ferries extended operational hours, maintained staff levels, and deferred planned work to support our efforts to maximise the throughput at the borders.
Plans were being developed to carry out litter picking and network clearing, but Sunday night saw a train fail in the tunnel and Brock was utilised to manage the disruption. Full train services were restored on Monday lunchtime and work was underway in clearing the backlog.
Tuesday has seen significantly higher freight volumes than forecast with Eurotunnel reporting around a 30% increase in volume whilst the Port of Dover also uplifted very high numbers of freight. DFDS and Irish Ferries are operating at capacity despite the absence of P&O ferries.
These volumes have led to continued traffic disruption. Brock quickly filled and the contraflow carriage has been needed to hold freight. Kent Police have further strengthened front line resources across critical locations in an attempt to prevent errant vehicles. Both portals are processing freight at high volumes and will continue to do so overnight and through the rest of the week. We are hopeful that we can return some operational traffic management into routine operations in the near future, but this will only be done when safe and sensible to do so.
Looking ahead, a further weather event is forecast for Wednesday and Thursday, whilst passenger forecasts are high for the weekend. Please rest assured that the Kent Resilience Forum remains focused on protecting Kent’s residents, communities, businesses and road users and will continue to do all it can to mitigating the impact of the loss of ferry capacity and other events that disrupt our county.
We will continue to issue regular traffic updates, and social media messaging to encourage people to check with their operator before they set off, and be prepared for longer travel times. We also highlight the need to pack sufficient supplies of water, food and other essential items to stay safe, keep healthy and to try to be as comfortable as possible during their journeys.
Your support in sharing these messages would be greatly appreciated and we will continue to provide you progress updates and situation reports on a regular and routine basis.