Record use of Dover emergency traffic measures as new Brexit border checks bite


Emergency traffic measures to control congestion at the Port of Dover have already been used as many times this year as in the first six months of 2021 combined, following the introduction of new Brexit border checks.

Figures provided to Sky News by National Highways reveal the Dover Traffic Access Protocol (TAP), designed to prevent tailbacks of lorries causing gridlock in the town centre, has been instigated 18 times since 1 January.

That compares to 69 times in total during 2021, almost half of which occurred in the last two months of the year.

The TAP was not used once during January 2021, when freight volumes were very low because of COVID restrictions, concerns over the end of the Brexit transition and the impact of the French border closure ordered by Emanuel Macron.

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Dover delays ‘not just due to Brexit’

Even allowing for a return to more normal trade volumes however, this year’s figures are historically high.

Figures seen by Sky News show that between 2016 and 2020 the TAP was instigated at most nine times in January, with just three instances in 2019, pre-COVID and the last year the UK was a full member of the European Union.

Under the TAP lorries are confined to a 40mph speed limit and required to use only the inside lane of the A20 approaching Dover to allow local and passenger traffic to flow through the town.

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In January, the TAP was instigated at the request of the Port of Dover on 17 occasions, resulting in tailbacks of parked vehicles up to six miles long.

It was activated at 4.16am on Tuesday at the request of the Port of Dover and is still in place at the time of writing, taking the total to 18 occasions in the first 32 days of 2022.

The latest queues come despite the return to service of all three DFDS ferries on the Dover-Calais route following routine maintenance.

Lorries queue for the Port of Dover in Kent, as the Dover TAP is enforced due to the high volume of lorries waiting to cross the Channel. Dover TAP is a temporary traffic management system which queues port-bound lorries in the nearside (left) lane of the A20 to prevent Dover becoming congested with traffic and helping to improve its air quality. Picture date: Tuesday February 1, 2022.
The Dover TAP is only enforced when a high volume of lorries is waiting to cross the Channel

Last month, government minister Baroness Vere said queues at Dover were a consequence of the vessels being out of use, not new Brexit red tape introduced on 1 January at the border with the EU in both directions.

Exporters and hauliers are now required to make customs declarations before traveling using the government’s Goods Vehicle Movement System, which also manages transit and security information.

Previously, exporters had a 60-day window in which to complete the paperwork after shipments had been made.

Lorries queue on the A20 for the Port of Dover in Kent, where delays are being caused to the transportation of goods across the channel after exports between Great Britain and the EU became subject to full customs controls on January 1. Picture date: Tuesday January 11, 2022.
Lorries queue on the A20

Anecdotally hauliers report the new checks are taking up to 15 minutes per vehicle even when all documentation is in order.

There have also been reports of long queues at the inland border facility at Ashford where hauliers receive clearance to travel.

Rod McKenzie, a spokesman for the Road Haulage Association, said: “It’s clear there are teething problems with the new border systems that came in.

“The test will be if these queues and other issues subside as traders get used to the red tape.

“If they continue for much longer it suggests the problems may be more serious than just teething trouble.”

Sky News has contacted the Port of Dover and the Department of Transport for comment.

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