Now that Brexit has been delayed again until Halloween on 31st October it is possible that the Highways Agency could reopen the M20 Junction 8 coastbound slip road and allow non HGV traffic to use the coastbound side of the M20 between Junction 8 in Hollingbourne and Junction 9 in Ashford. Since the 25th March when Operation Brock started in anticipation on Brexit on 29th March, the slip road has been closed and non HGV coastbound traffic has been diverted on to a contraflow system on the London bound side of the M20. The closure of the coastbound side of the M20 to non HGV traffic is part of the Operation Brock scheme to store 2000 lorries on the 13 mile section waiting for Customs at Dover and Eurotunnel after Brexit when it was expected that the UK will leave the EU Customs Union.
The Hollingbourne to Ashford project has cost a reported £26 million and is not popular with drivers because of the narrowness of the lanes in the contraflow system where there are no refuges in the event of incidents which seem to occur most days. Additionally Hollingbourne residents on the Ashford Road are concerned that the use of the hard shoulder at the rear of their homes for London bound traffic is noisy and dangerous. There have also been complaints about litter and worse deposited on the side of the motorway. Additionally last night the M20 between Junctions 8 and 9 was closed for an emergency.
The closure of the Junction 8 slip road has meant that Coastbound traffic from the Hollingbourne Motorway Service Area has had to go back up the M20 to Junction 7 in order to do a U-turn before joining the contraflow system at Junction 8.
On the assumption that the UK leaves the EU Customs Union it is expected that the transit time in Customs will increase from 2 minutes to 20-30 for HGV and Kent has been asked to find storage space for over 10,000 queueing HGV’s. When the Hollingbourne to Ashford section of the M20 is full, HGV’s will be diverted up the A249 and on to the M2 where they will be sent to Manston Airport. When Manston is full the M26 will be used.
It is assumed that Brexit delay will mean that European Elections are held on 23rd May and the Hollingbourne Polling Station is at the Cardwell Pavilion. More details are to follow.
Local MP Mrs Helen Whately had previously been asked to comment on the closure of the slip road before the change in the date of Brexit and it is hoped that she will pursue the matter further with Highways England now that Brexit has a new date. Mrs Whately can be contacted at email@example.com
Meanwhile Mr Damian Green, MP for Ashford is calling for the removal of Operation Brock and more information is at https://www.kentonline.co.uk/maidstone/news/eu-extension-could-mean-end-of-op-brock-202505/
UPDATE as of 4pm on 11th April – Mrs Helen Whately has posted the following on Twitter to say that Operation Brock should be lifted within a few days https://twitter.com/Helen_Whately/status/1116318718726942720
UPDATE as of 15th April – The slip road was opened overnight although some of the Operation Brock signage and cones remain.
Pictured below (top) is the Junction 8 slip road closure sign and (bottom) is the M20 coastbound with the HGV area on the left and the contraflow system on the right.