Kent lorry backlog cleared as drivers told they can go to Dover

26 December 2020, 13:24 | Updated: 26 December 2020, 13:25

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that by 9am on Boxing Day all hauliers had left Manston airfield
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that by 9am on Boxing Day all hauliers had left Manston airfield. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Lorry drivers waiting to cross into France have been told they can head back to Dover instead of waiting in Manston airfield.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that by 9am on Boxing Day, all hauliers had left Manston airfield.

The site has been being used to manage the huge number of lorries stuck in Kent after France temporarily banned travel from the UK in a bid to prevent the new Covid strain crossing the channel.

Mr Shapps said in a tweet that 15,526 coronavirus tests have been carried out on drivers, with 36 positive results being returned. He said these positive results are now "are being verified".

"Manston now empty and lorries should no longer head there please," the cabinet minister explained.

Mr Shapps also thanked "everyone who's worked tirelessly over the past few days to reduce the huge disruption.

"Police, military, planners, councils, charities, border staff - all have rallied to bring food and drink to stranded hauliers," he said.

Read more: Thousands of lorry drivers spend Christmas Day in cabs at Channel border

Read more: Lorry drivers clash with police in Dover as French border reopens

Thousands of lorry drivers spent Christmas Day in their cabs after being held up at the English Channel border.

Traffic was said to be moving smoothly through the Port of Dover on Friday morning after hundreds of soldiers were deployed in the town as part of a large repatriation effort.

French firefighters have also been drafted in to help the military test drivers for Covid-19 and to ease the disruption in Kent.

After the border reopened on Wednesday, more than 700 hauliers have been cleared for departure, with drivers beeping their horns on Christmas Eve in celebration of the decision.

However, around 5,000 international drivers are still unable to get home despite progress being made.

Some hauliers have spent nearly a week stranded with their lorries due to the chaos at the border.Southeastern Railway and Network Rail have arranged for food to be delivered to those stuck as part of Operation Brock on the motorway.

Seven trains carrying crates of food for the hauliers have left London in the past 48 hours, with the Salvation Army distributing the items.

More than 300 troops will take charge of testing and lorry marshalling to clear the backlog.

The government said catering vans would provide complementary hot food and drinks to stranded hauliers at Manston, with Kent Council and volunteer groups providing refreshments to those stuck on the M20.

There are more than 250 toilets at Manston, with a further 32 portable toilets added to existing facilities already along the motorway.