Industry attacks government figures on Dover lorry queues

Dover, Kent, UK: The government has come under fire for downplaying the seriousness of the freight tailback situation in Kent.

At a press conference on 21 December transport secretary Grant Shapps said that there were around 170 lorries in Dover, waiting to cross the Channel. However Highways England later contradicted this figure, stating that here were about 900.

Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett Tweeted on 22 December: “Why mislead the public regarding vehicles parked on the M20 in Kent. At 11:30am yesterday there were 700 in the queue, 945 by 18:00 last night and a further 600 in Ashford truck-stop Where did you get 170 from?”

Home secretary Priti Patel said the number of lorries would “fluctuate” but that on Tuesday morning there were 650 on the M20 and a further 873 at Manston airfield, which is being used as a contraflow site to ease the tailbacks.

The total figure could be as high as 1,500 lorries, with lorries now parked along the seafront at Dover. 

Meanwhile, the RHA raised concerns about the welfare of drivers stuck in queues. Rod McKenzie, RHA policy director, 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.”

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.”

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