What is Operation Brock? M20 traffic and Channel Crossing guide

What is Operation Brock? M20 traffic and Channel Crossing guide
If you are looking to take a car journey to Europe this summer, it is important to be aware of what to expect on your journey. This is why it is vital to know everything about Operation Brock.

As families pack their cars for a road trip, worrying about being stuck in hours of traffic is probably not at the forefront of their minds.

However, the main routes to the English Channel crossing are often backed up for miles.

The guide will help prepare you for your next journey to France and continental Europe.

What is Operation Brock?

Operation Brock refers to a traffic management system that was initially planned to be implemented in the UK in response to potential disruptions caused by the country's withdrawal from the European Union.

However, despite the impact of Brexit, the operation remains an option for the Government, as it was specifically designed to manage traffic flow in the event of congestion or delays at the Channel ports, such as Dover, which are major gateways for trade and holiday makers between the UK and the European mainland.

When in use, it is put into operation on the M20 motorway in Kent.

It is a contraflow system on certain stretch of the motorway where one lane is used for both directions of traffic. This system allows for greater flexibility in managing traffic during periods of heavy traffic or disruption.

One of the other key facets of Operation Brock is the use of ‘Lorry car parks’. This is where a convoy of lorries can be temporarily held to alleviate congestion.

Impact of Operation Stack

Prior to the introduction of Operation Brock in the wake of Brexit, there was a similar system in place.

It was also used during times of traffic disruption, congestion, or industrial action at the English Channel ports for both lorries carrying goods, and for those looking to take a holiday to Europe.

Parts of the M20 were divided into ‘stacks’, where each with specific areas allocated for different types of vehicles.

Facts about M20

Operation Brock is based on the M20 motorway in Kent. It is the main stretch of road that connects London to Folkestone, and travel options into mainland Europe.

The 50-mile stretch of motorway starts from the Swanley Interchange in Kent and ends at the junction with the A20 near Folkestone. A lot of the road uses smart motorway technology.

However, the motorway intersects with the M25 motorway near Swanley, which provides drivers a link to London.

At Ashford, the motorway connects to the A20, which then leads to the Channel Tunnel and the port of Dover.

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Operation Brock – latest updates

In July 2023, the Department for Transport (DfT0 announced that they were anticipating that it will be very busy at the Short Straits over the upcoming weekends, which is likely to impact everyone crossing the Channel.

As a result, the DfT stated that anyone looking to take a ferry or use the Channel Tunnel, that travellers should allow more time for their journeys and make sure they are prepared for delays.

This means that drivers and their passengers should make sure they have access to snacks, water and any essential medication whilst waiting in queues.

Passengers should have all their documents open on ID pages when arriving at border controls.

They also advise anyone travelling to check with their travel operator before setting out if anything with their booking has changed or if there are any announcement regarding any delays.

An RAC spokesperson commented: “Drivers heading to Dover should plan their travel carefully and leave plenty of time – checking with the ferry operator on check-in times is vital. It’s also important to have travel documentation to hand as you reach the port to help speed up the process.”

With the highest passenger numbers since before the pandemic booked to cross the channel in July and August on ferries from Dover and trains through Le Shuttle, the scheme was reinstated on Thursday 13 July 2023.

The Kent Resilience Forum (KRF) have thanked local residents, businesses, drivers, and hauliers for their patience while the contraflow is in place and urging people to plan their cross-Channel journeys, including booking ahead, to help keep Kent moving and open for business throughout the busy summer period.

According to Kent County Council, an altered road layout between Junctions 8 and 9 will reduce the impact of disruption by directing lorries heading for mainland Europe onto the motorway’s coastbound carriageway, where they can be held, if necessary, while all other traffic can continue on its journey in both directions.

Lorries heading to Europe are legally required to follow the signed HGV routes to the Port of Dover and Le Shuttle.

KRF Strategic Planning Lead Simon Jones, said: “The decision to deploy Operation Brock is never taken lightly and is based on data and intelligence that clearly shows there is a potential risk of disruption on routes to the Port of Dover and Le Shuttle.

“Kent’s Short Straits gateways provide a critical national role for international trade and tourism as the shortest crossing to mainland Europe for lorries and holidaymakers.

“Both Port of Dover and Le Shuttle are reporting high booking numbers through July and August, with an increase in tourist traffic from the weekend of 15/16 July, as tens of thousands of passengers will set off to Europe during the school holiday season.

“When we also take into consideration everyday freight and local traffic, combined with high numbers of tourists heading to our beaches and attractions, we know how busy the roads in Kent will be.

“Brock is there to ease congestion and to make sure that we can manage freight bound for Europe, therefore protecting the local road network, and allowing people to reach their destination and go about their business with the minimum disruption possible.

“As Strategic Lead for the KRF, I am absolutely committed to keeping the deployment of the barrier under constant review over the coming weeks and removing it as soon as possible.

“I would like to thank everyone who drives along this stretch of the M20 through Kent for their patience during this busy summer getaway, and also urge hauliers to follow the signs on the M20 and stick to the official route.”

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