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RHA chief executive Richard Burnett has congratulated the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps for his part in the re-opening of the UK-French border but warned that the situation is far from resolved and that hundreds of drivers may not make it home for Christmas.

The border has reopened for accompanied freight services and some passenger services on the proviso that everyone travelling from the UK into France is able to show proof of a negative Coronavirus test, taken within the previous 72 hours.

However, France will only admit those travelling for urgent reasons – including hauliers, French citizens and British citizens with French residency.

All truck drivers, regardless of nationality, will require a lateral flow test which can detect the new strain of Covid-19 and return results in approximately 30 minutes.

Manston Airfield will remain the main testing centre for hauliers.

On-site staff at Manston are providing tests to hauliers to be self-administered in their cabs under supervision. The result will be communicated to the driver via text message or email, identifying them via their number plate.

The French government will also carry out sample testing on incoming freight to the UK.

Commenting, RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “It’s hat’s off to the Secretary of State for Transport for making this happen sooner than originally anticipated. However, I fear that the thousands of truckers stranded in Kent aren’t out of the woods yet. The massive backlog of vehicles will take time to clear and hundreds of drivers run the risk or not getting home in time for Christmas."

The government is still urging operators not to travel to Kent until further notice to allow for the mass testing system to be established.

Operation Stack remains in force along the M20 while lorry drivers in Kent are continuing to be directed to the Manston holding facility, where they have access to food and welfare facilities.

Drivers’ hours regs for hauliers have been relaxed to help drivers get through UK borders safely, including via Kent, during the coming weeks.

Hauliers with negative tests will be released in batches to manage traffic flows.  If a positive test is confirmed, the haulier will be directed to leave the Manston site in their vehicle and will be provided with accommodation to enter self-isolation for 10 days.

The UK government is working with Kent local authorities to provide this location, which will provide hauliers with Covid-secure accommodation and secure parking for their cargo. Non-hauliers will have to arrange a private test to enable travel.