We are currently experiencing network problems with the desktop version of Police Oracle. We hope to have these resolved as soon as possible.

Mutual aid critical to EU border operation, says Kent ACC

Mutual aid has been critical to the operation to keep hauliers moving after Brexit, according to the force leading it.

Kent Police said Operation Brock has coped with the thousands of trucks travelling to the EU, including the sudden imposition of COVID-19 testing for drivers.

The force told Police Oracle that two years of multi-agency planning has paid off and that the first three months of the initiative has managed to avoid major delays and kept the county’s road network going.

Assistant Chief Constable Claire Nix said: “Kent Police and its partners in the Kent Resilience Forum spent more than two years planning for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union to ensure any traffic disruption resulting from the new customs arrangements was kept to an absolute minimum.”

The force handled a staggering 200,000 movements in January alone through Folkestone, Dover and the Eurotunnel.

Around 5,000 lorries pass through the tunnel each day.

To deal with this and domestic issues, Kent has been relying on 33 forces to support the initiative through mutual aid. Among them have been Yorkshire, Gwent and Devon and Cornwall.

The significant costs of the operation are recovered by Kent Police from the Home Office.

The mutual aid officers are mainly working in bike and traffic units to enforce traffic restrictions.

ACC Nix said:  “The ongoing operation to keep Kent moving has been very much a team effort, with hundreds of people from partners including Kent County Council, Highways England and the Department for Transport working around the clock to help EU-bound HGV drivers enjoy as smooth a journey to the county’s ports as possible.”

She added: “From a Kent Police perspective, we are hugely grateful for the mutual aid we have received from more than 30 other police forces across the UK whose officers played an integral role in supporting the traffic management plan.

“This involved working with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency to carry out enforcement action against HGV drivers who arrived in Kent without a Kent Access Permit or breached traffic regulations by accessing the Operation Brock contraflow on the M20 reserved for domestic traffic.”

So far the only escalation came in December when virus testing was suddenly introduced for drivers going into Europe. Hundreds of trucks were stranded on motorways and had to be fed by the local community.

ACC Nix said: “The unexpected need for those drivers to also have access to COVID-19 tests from December 2020 onwards added another layer of complexity to what was already an intricate traffic management plan.”

How it works

Effectively, it is a large-scale civil contingency operation with the same approach as a major incident – except it is ongoing.

Hauliers making the journey into the EU must have logged into the government’s customs system to register before entering Kent.

Operation Brock has stages that can be deployed sequentially, scaling up or down to meet demand. In addition to the M20 contraflow, lorries can be routed to Manston Airfield – currently not in use- and, if needed, the M26 motorway can be closed and used to queue HGVs too. 

A huge lorry park in Ashford, built in just a few months, acts as a holding pen for dozens of vehicles.

To ensure they stick to the route, it is a legal requirement to use the signed routes only for HGV journeys to Port of Dover and Eurotunnel. 

EU-bound HGVs are not permitted to use the M2/A2 to access Dover.

The big part of the enforcement operation is stopping trucks that take to the B-roads and country lanes in a bid to save time.

The four Es are used to engage with drivers at key junctions and VOSA vehicles are used to escort ‘lost’ drivers back to the M20.

There are also temporary restrictions on HGV parking in lay-bys or streets – a scourge for local people for many years.

Communication is handled through bulletins to traditional media and social media accounts run by Kent County Council, Kent Police and Highways England.

Highways England said: “Operation Brock opens up more of the road network in Kent because it means traffic can continue to move in both directions on the M20, whereas Stack effectively closes it to coast-bound traffic.”

It has also given the force thew opportunity to tackle other offending.

ACC Nix said: “Other duties included tackling other motoring offences that may be committed on the road network, supporting Highways England and Department for Transport employees in directing traffic if police intervention was necessary, and helping to keep key routes clear of traffic by quickly responding to collisions and other incidents that may require a police response.”

The government claims operation is “an interim measure” that will be stood down when it is no longer needed.

ACC Nix told Police Oracle that the multi-agency team is not being complacent: “Whilst it is pleasing that we have not yet experienced any significant issues on Kent’s roads since the end of the EU transition period, we are continuing to closely monitor daily traffic levels so any problems that may emerge can be quickly addressed.”

But online feedback from Kent residents and hauliers and residents is that the current arrangements are permanent.

There is a respite currently because of the delay announced last month by the government to post-Brexit SPS import checks. They won’t start until October. 

The Road haulage Association believes it buys valuable extra time for traders and hauliers to prepare for the complex border arrangements.

But RHA chief executive Richard Burnett warned: “It is not a universal fix: we cannot be confident that operators will even be ready at the end of the extension period on 1 October.

"The number of skilled customs agents and veterinarians in place across the EU to complete the relevant documentation still falls far short of what’s needed.”

Leave a Comment
View Comments 1
In Other News
Devon and Cornwall plans biggest-ever operation for G7 summit
Newer PSNI officers to get public order refresher training
Nearly half of officers for climate summit to come from mutual aid
NI Chief warns job cuts and mutual aid coming without more funding
Kent called in mutual aid to deal with Cross-channel border closure
Civil nuclear police and MoD officers to backfill for sick officers
More News