Thousands more lorries have been allowed to cross the English Channel after spending days in queues at the border, but sources said the delays could continue into this week.
Congestion at the Port of Dover and the Eurotunnel continued to ease on Boxing Day after days of gridlock earlier in the week, with mass testing programmes allowing hauliers to cross to France.
The Port of Dover, Kent, south-east England is the nearest English port to France, at just 34 kilometres away. It is one of the world’s busiest passenger ports, with about 12 million passengers, 3 million lorries, 2.5 million cars and motorcycles and 80,000 coaches passing through annually.
Hauliers said the delays were not over yet, with more lorry drivers who postponed their travel over the festive period or must travel when the working week begins today expected to join the queues soon.
The delays followed France’s decision to close its border last Sunday amid concerns about the spread of a new strain of coronavirus in the south-east of England. Lorry drivers attempting to cross the border from Britain to France are now required to show evidence of a negative coronavirus test taken within the previous 72 hours.
Grant Shapps, the UK transport secretary, said 15,000 lorry drivers had been tested for coronavirus by midday on Boxing Day, and that the backlog at the testing site at Manston airport in Kent had been cleared.
Shapps said on Twitter that of the 15,526 coronavirus tests administered to waiting lorry drivers, there had been just 36 positive results – about 0.23% of the total.
Duncan Buchanan, the policy director at the Road Haulage Association, said traffic was flowing at the Port of Dover on Boxing Day.
He said, “At the moment, it’s just a case of keep going, because we need to make sure we can get as many people out as possible. We still have all the people who delayed travelling, who will start to want to get through.
“Some people will have parked up in Essex and will be looking at moving again. Next week is a normal working week so I would expect the vehicles to increase then too. It’s not over yet and we will see what happens next.”
He also thanked the volunteers, including those from the local community in Kent, for their help in delivering warm meals and water to the drivers stuck in the queues.
After gridlock at the border, traffic began to flow through Dover on Friday when French firefighters and members of the Polish military were brought in to support testing efforts. They worked with 1,100 British military personnel to administer the tests at Manston airport and two mobile testing sites.
As of Friday evening, about 3,000 hauliers were still delayed at the border. About half of those had crossed by 10.30am on Saturday, according to the Department for Transport. It said more than 8,000 HGVs had passed through the border since it was reopened on Wednesday.