Dover lorry chaos: Dad-of-three tells LBC his wife cried when he revealed he'll miss Christmas

23 December 2020, 21:24

By Joe Cook

A lorry driver stuck at Manston airfield in Kent has told LBC his devastated wife was left in tears after she heard he would miss Christmas with his three children in Germany.

René Ehrhardt told LBC he is stuck near the end of a queue of thousands of trucks at Manston airfield, after the temporary closure of the French border caused chaos.

While an agreement has now been reached to reopen the Channel to freight, it is expected to take a number of days to clear the 5,000 lorry backlog.

Many drivers are expecting to be forced to spend Christmas in their cabs, with all needing to provide a negative Covid-19 test before they can enter France.

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

German driver René Ehrhardt said Christmas Eve is the most important day for much of Europe over the period, but he has little hope of "spending that with the family".

The father-of-three, who has a two-year-old daughter, said his wife was "smashed and crying", telling LBC: "Of course it is awful for her, I explained the entire situation to her".

"We hope to be as soon as possible at home," he added.

Read more: Covid UK: Which new areas will enter Tier 4 and what are the new Christmas rules?

Mr Ehrhardt also said he was worried that coronavirus may spread at the lorry park, with few people social distancing.

"You have four or five thousands trucks being parked in a row. You have all the drivers, they meet each other, they go and have a lunch a break or a diner, they sit together in a cab.

Read more: Many more areas plunged into Tier 4 from Boxing Day

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"Most of them, they are not wearing face masks," he said.

"The risk now to get infected, I think, is much higher than it was three days ago when they said you can go straight through and go home."

Rene's view from his cab, where he expects to spend Christmas.
Rene's view from his cab, where he expects to spend Christmas. Picture: Rene Ehrhardt

On Tuesday, many drivers complained that there was not enough food or water available for those queueing.

Sikh charity Khalsa Aid was even asked to cook food by Kent Police, with 800 hot meals delivered to drivers on the M20 on Tuesday night.

Mr Ehrhardt said the food facilities at Manston are now much improved, with food trucks on the airfield: "It is Italian food, you can have burgers, kebabs, Chinese food - it is a wide range of different food and it is all for free."

But he added there are still not enough washing facilities for the number of drivers: "Up to midday today there were only a few toilets and they were just overfilled.

Read more: Housing Secretary tells LBC Kent lorry jam will be cleared 'in a couple of days'

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"It was not possible to go to the toilet and you had to do that in-between the trucks, or just go somewhere on the grass.

"That was a bit awful, but the situation is getting better now. But what we are missing, 100 percent, there are no showers, or no one could tell us if there were showers available.

"There is also no laundry service so I have been wearing my clothes for more than two days."