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Services for EU-bound HGVs at the Manston Airport site are being suspended in what Kent Police are hailing as a first step towards a return to “business as usual” on the county’s roads following the end of the Brexit transition.

From next Sunday (21 March) freight heading for the Port of Dover will no longer be directed to attend the DfT site at the airfield.

In addition the site will no longer offer Covid-19 tests or customs checks for hauliers. However the DfT said these services can be reactivated at short notice if necessary.

All HGVs will instead access the Operation Brock traffic management system between Junctions 8 and 9 on the M20 coastbound carriageway, with one lane being used for Eurotunnel and the other for the Port of Dover.

Drivers are warned that any HGVs attempting to take an alternative route outside of the Operation Brock system risk enforcement action.

HGV drivers who require a Covid-19 test before leaving the UK are strongly encouraged to take one before entering Kent in order to avoid delays, the DfT warns. Any that arrive without one will now be directed to a single facility at Sevington, near Ashford.

Assistant Chief Constable Claire Nix of Kent Police and chair of the Kent Resilience Forum, said: “Thanks to the hard work of all partners and those EU-bound motorists who have followed the requirements, there have been no significant traffic issues on Kent’s roads since the end of the EU transition period.

“The suspension of services at the former Manston Airport site is the first major step in what we all hope will be an eventual return to business as usual, as it means HGV traffic bound for the Port of Dover will now be able to take a more direct route along the M20 with easier access to the full range of services that will be provided at the Sevington Inland Border Facility.

“It is however important to note that Manston can be stood up again at short notice if necessary, and that the site was only ever planned to be used as a holding area for lorries in extreme circumstances – as was the case following the closure of the French border last December.

“The recent agreement between the UK and French governments that HGV drivers who spend less than 48 hours in the country no longer need a negative Covid-19 test result before entering France gave partners the opportunity to review the traffic management plan and agree that the suspension of services at Manston is a step in the right direction.

She added that the Kent Resilience Forum will continue to closely monitor freight volumes.

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “Thanks to the efforts of the haulage industry and partners, traffic continues to run smoothly through Kent, which is fantastic to see.

“The changes to the French protocol have meant that there’s a reduction in the number of hauliers who require testing, and as a result, we can reduce outbound haulier testing in Kent – helping minimise disruption to local residents.

“Manston can be reactivated at short notice if any circumstances change, but I know the local community, which has worked so collaboratively with us during this time, will be pleased to see another step being taken towards the normal running of Kent’s roads.”