Lorry driver stuck on M20 sets up picnic from cab as mass-testing programme aims to end congestion

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·4 min read
A Turkish long-haul truck driver eats his breakfast at a truck stop off the M20 motorway which leads to the Port of Dover, near Ashford in Kent, south east England on December 22, 2020, as he queues unable to continue his journey after France closed its borders to accompanied freight arriving from the UK due to the rapid spread of a more-infectious new coronavirus strain. - Britain sought to sound a note of calm saying they were working as fast as possible to unblock trade across the Channel after France shut its borders to UK hauliers in a bid to contain a new variant of the coronavirus. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A Turkish long-haul truck driver eats his breakfast at a truck stop off the M20 motorway, which leads to the Port of Dover, near Ashford in Kent. (Getty)

As congestion on the M20 continues, lorry drivers have taken to setting up meals outside their vehicles while they wait for the blockade to ease.

One Turkish truck driver was pictured sitting by his vehicle eating a meal of sausages, bread and cheese.

Others were seen drinking at stop-off points on the M20 while they waited to return home.

It comes as housing and communities secretary Robert Jenrick said around 4,000 lorries may be caught up in the Kent backlog.

A Turkish long-haul truck driver eats his breakfast at a truck stop off the M20 motorway which leads to the Port of Dover, near Ashford in Kent, south east England on December 22, 2020, as he queues unable to continue his journey after France closed its borders to accompanied freight arriving from the UK due to the rapid spread of a more-infectious new coronavirus strain. - Britain sought to sound a note of calm saying they were working as fast as possible to unblock trade across the Channel after France shut its borders to UK hauliers in a bid to contain a new variant of the coronavirus. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A Turkish long-haul truck driver eats his breakfast while waiting for the blockade to ease. (Getty)
A Turkish long-haul truck driver prepares his breakfast at a truck stop off the M20 motorway which leads to the Port of Dover, near Ashford in Kent, south east England on December 22, 2020, as he queues unable to continue his journey after France closed its borders to accompanied freight arriving from the UK due to the rapid spread of a more-infectious new coronavirus strain. - Britain sought to sound a note of calm saying they were working as fast as possible to unblock trade across the Channel after France shut its borders to UK hauliers in a bid to contain a new variant of the coronavirus. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
The driver ate a meal of sausages, bread, honey and cheese at the side of his lorry. (Getty)

A mass-testing programme for lorry drivers is set to get under way today to alleviate the congestion at ports after an agreement was reached to reopen the border between France and the UK.

However, Jenrick told Sky News it would take “a few days” to test all the drivers before they can travel to France.

He said: “I hope that this morning you will see people and HGVs crossing the Channel.”

Watch: Miles-long lorry queues form on M20 as borders close

A group of Sikh volunteers and a local football club sourced hundreds of meals for the lorry drivers stuck in Kent, travelling over 80 miles to help provide more than 800 meals to the truckers.

The backlog started after more than 40 countries, including France, Belgium, Italy and Spain, temporarily closed their borders to the UK after Boris Johnson’s comments about a new, more contagious strain of coronavirus on Saturday.

French authorities have announced that journeys from the UK will be allowed to resume after the coronavirus ban was lifted, but those seeking to travel must have a negative test result.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed on Tuesday evening that rapid lateral flow tests – which can give results in about 30 minutes – will be used to test HGV drivers at the ports.

The French authorities will be carrying out similar testing on hauliers entering the UK.

A Polish driver pours drinks for him and his colleagues as they wait at a truck stop off the M20 leading to Dover near Folkestone in Kent, south east England on December 22, 2020, after France closed its borders to accompanied freight arriving from the UK due to the rapid spread of a new coronavirus strain. - Britain sought to sound a note of calm saying they were working as fast as possible to unblock trade across the Channel after France shut its borders to UK hauliers in a bid to contain a new variant of the coronavirus. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A Polish driver pours drinks for him and his colleagues as they wait at a truck stop off the M20. (Getty)
SELLINDGE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 22: Lorries are stacked along the M20 motorway as the border to France is closed on December 22, 2020 in Sellindge, United Kingdom. Nearly 1000 lorries remained stacked up in Kent as drivers waited for a resumption of travel from the port of Dover to France. On Sunday, France abruptly halted freight and passenger travel from the UK over concerns about the UK's surging covid-19 cases and a new variant of the virus. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Lorries are stacked along the M20 motorway as the border to France is closed. (Getty)

Shapps said: “We have managed to get all those tests to Kent, enough for all the vehicles which will want to return before Christmas, so that won’t be an issue.

“Obviously there’s a physical issue of providing the test, getting the results. A negative test allows you to leave.

“But all of that requires operationalising and that can’t happen in an instant, so this will take two or three days for things to be cleared.”

Shapps has urged hauliers not to travel to Kent until further notice.

Elizabeth de Jong, policy director at business group Logistics UK, said it was “vital” that testing procedures are “stood up fast to ensure drivers can be processed and get home for Christmas safely”.

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She added: “The backlog of traffic across the region will take time to clear so hauliers should wait for further news before travelling to Kent.”

The protocol agreed with the French government will be reviewed on 31 December – but could run until 6 January.

A sign alerting lorry drivers that they need to have a Covid-19 test before attempting to leave the UK for Europe, is pictured at the entrance to a truckstop service area, off of the M20 motorway that leads to Folkestone and Dover, near Ashford in Kent, south east England on December 22, 2020, after France closed its borders to accompanied freight arriving from the UK due to the rapid spread of a new coronavirus strain. - The British government said Tuesday it was considering tests for truckers as part of talks with French authorities to allow the resumption of freight traffic suspended due to a new coronavirus strain. Britain was plunged into fresh crisis last week with the emergence of a fresh strain of the virus, which is believed to be up to 70 percent more transmissible than other forms. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A sign alerting lorry drivers that they need to have a COVID-19 test before attempting to leave the UK for Europe, at the entrance to a truckstop service area off of the M20. (Getty)
A driver of a freight lorry talk son his phone as he stands outside his cab parked at a truck stop off the M20 leading to Dover, near Folkestone in Kent, south east England on December 22, 2020, after France closed its borders to accompanied freight arriving from the UK due to the rapid spread of a new coronavirus strain. - The British government said Tuesday it was considering tests for truckers as part of talks with French authorities to allow the resumption of freight traffic suspended due to a new coronavirus strain. Britain was plunged into fresh crisis last week with the emergence of a fresh strain of the virus, which is believed to be up to 70 percent more transmissible than other forms. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A driver of a freight lorry talks on his phone as he stands outside his cab parked at a truck stop off the M20. (Getty)

The French decision to ease its restrictions came after the European Commission recommended a joint approach from EU members in response to the mutant VUI 202012/1 coronavirus.

The World Health Organization’s European chief Hans Kluge said limiting travel to contain the spread of the new variant was “prudent” until there was more information, but that supply chains for “essential goods” and essential travel “should remain possible”.

It comes as the UK government is reportedly considering implementing a third national lockdown on Boxing Day in an attempt to halt the spread of the new COVID strain.

Watch: What is long COVID?