Stranded lorry drivers 'given just one cereal bar' as French freight ban continues

Ross McGuinness
·5 min read
Freight lorry lined up on the runway at Manston Airport, Kent, after France imposed a 48-hour ban on entry from the UK in the wake of concerns over the spread of a new strain of coronavirus. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)
Lorries lined up on the runway at disused Manston Airport, Kent, on Tuesday, after France imposed a 48-hour ban on entry from the UK. (PA via Getty)

Lorry drivers stranded in the UK waiting to cross the Channel following a French ban on British freight have been offered just a single cereal bar, it has been claimed.

More than 1,500 lorries are stuck near the port of Dover, Kent, after France banned hauliers from Britain for 48 hours over the emergence of a new strain of coronavirus in the UK.

More than 40 countries have banned UK flights and travel because of the faster spreading new coronavirus variant.

On Monday, prime minister Boris Johnson urged people not to panic buy amid fears the ban could cause a Christmas food shortage.

Watch: Hundreds of lorries backed up as border remains closed

The M20 in Kent was closed on Monday night to allow for the implementation of Operation Brock – contingency measures which involve using a moveable barrier to keep traffic moving on the motorway whenever there is disruption at the Channel. Lorries may park at disused Manston Airport.

Lorry drivers have spent two nights trapped in Dover and a trade association said on Tuesday that little is being done to support them.

Rod McKenzie, managing director of the Road Haulage Association, told BBC Breakfast: “Clearly those drivers have spent a second night parked up somewhere, possibly on a motorway, possibly somewhere else, trying to get across the Channel, and many of them are European drivers trying to get home for Christmas, and their morale is very poor.

“Yesterday, Kent County Council offered each of them one cereal bar, which is a pretty poor effort, I think, in terms of maintaining their morale, and their spirits.”

Freight lorry directed into Manston Airport, Kent, after France imposed a 48-hour ban on entry from the UK in the wake of concerns over the spread of a new strain of coronavirus. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)
A lorry is directed into Manston Airport, Kent, on Tuesday. (PA via Getty)
Lorries are parked up on the M20 in Kent near to Folkestone services whilst the Port of Dover remains closed.
Lorries are parked up on the M20 in Kent near to Folkestone services while the Port of Dover remains closed. (PA)

McKenzie said toilet facilities were also a “big issue” with concerns over health and cleanliness.

“We are not treating them well as a country, we are not treating lorry drivers well in these very difficult conditions that they are in at the moment,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Kent County Council said: “With the help of Kent Resilience Forum agencies, we were able to give out snacks and drinking water through Monday ahead of drivers being able to access welfare facilities at Manston as part of Operation Brock planning.

Lorries parked up outside the entrance to the Port of Dover, Kent, following the closing of French borders to arrivals from the UK.
Lorries parked up outside the entrance to the Port of Dover, Kent, following the closing of French borders to arrivals from the UK. (PA)

“Though hauliers are routinely well prepared for disruption, while French borders remain closed it remains important that people avoid travelling to Kent.”

Lorry driver Caspar Pecherzewski, 22, from Poland, has been among those caught up in queues at Dover since Sunday.

“We can find a toilet, at a gas station or something, but we don’t have showers and stuff,” he said.

“No one is saying anything about how long we will be here. The police just told us to wait. We’re stuck here and we don’t know how long it will take.”

Ronald Schroeder, 52, from Hamburg, Germany, who was turned back from Dover on Sunday night, said: “I am now staying in a hotel, but in front of the hotel there are thousands of people without any rooms waiting to come over the Channel crossing.

Lorries parked on the M20 in Kent after the Port of Dover was closed after the French government's announcement it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK. France appears set to end a ban on hauliers crossing the Channel which was imposed due to fears about the spread of the new coronavirus strain.
Lorries parked on the M20 in Kent after the Port of Dover was closed by the French government's ban on travel from the UK. (PA)
SELLINDGE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 21: The coastguard give out bottles of water as lorries queue on the M20 on December 21, 2020 in Sellindge, England. Citing concern over a new covid-19 variant and England's surge in cases, France temporarily closed its border with the UK late Sunday, halting freight and ferry departures from the port of Dover for 48 hours. France also joined several other European countries in stopping rail and air travel from the UK. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
The coastguard give out bottles of water to lorry drivers stuck in queues on the M20 on Monday. (Getty Images)

“I feel a little bit like Robinson Crusoe on an island.

“The problems of the drivers who are not already in hotels is huge – in my hotel, three buses are renting just one room to have a toilet and a shower.

“They say in the buses, the motor is running, the social situation becomes more and more worse every hour.

“The public toilets should be open here right now, there should be someone to hand tea or coffee to the drivers, there should be more help for all the people who have been stranded.

“I already know that for me Christmas is gone, I have already stopped the hope of Christmas, hopefully I can be back for New Year, but I have lost the hope this Christmas to be at home with my children and my wife.”

Shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Rachel Reeves said lorry drivers are essential workers and should be treated “a lot better”.

“We’ve had 24 hours or so now of this chaos in Kent, both in Dover and the Eurotunnel, and we need to get that fixed,” she told BBC Breakfast.

On Tuesday morning, home secretary Priti Patel told BBC Breakfast: “I’ve just been told that currently on the M20 there are 650 lorries, and there are 873 lorries at the inland site in Manston.”

A drive sits in the cab of his lorry while parked on the M20 in Kent after the Port of Dover was closed after the French government's announcement it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK. France appears set to end a ban on hauliers crossing the Channel which was imposed due to fears about the spread of the new coronavirus strain. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
A driver sits in the cab of his lorry while parked on the M20 in Kent after the Port of Dover was closed. (PA via Getty)
A drive sits in the cab of his lorry while parked on the M20 in Kent after the Port of Dover was closed after the French government's announcement it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK. France appears set to end a ban on hauliers crossing the Channel which was imposed due to fears about the spread of the new coronavirus strain. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
The queue of lorries along the M20 from Dover, Kent. (PA via Getty)

She also told Sky News: “I think it’s important to recognise the figures fluctuate. The number one message has been to avoid Dover.”

She said the government was “working to get a resolution” as talks continued with France on reopening full trade and transport across the Channel.

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Watch: Truck driver criticises government over handling of border closure