Last reviewed 23 December 2020

An agreement to reopen the UK-French border to allow accompanied freight services and some passenger services to resume between the two countries has been reached by the UK and French Governments.

However, the Department for Transport (DfT) has warned that there will continue to be major delays and disruption that will last for several days as it starts to put in place a mass testing programme for heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers.

It therefore urges hauliers not to travel through Kent until further notice.

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.

Under the agreement, admittance into France will only be granted to those travelling for urgent reasons — including hauliers — French citizens, and British citizens with French residency. 

Rail, air and sea services resumed on 23 December but with all people travelling from the UK into France required to show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within the previous 72 hours.

“The protocol agreed with the French Government will be reviewed on 31 December, but could run until 6 January,” the DfT said. “All lorry drivers, irrespective of nationality, will require a lateral flow test. This can detect the new strain of Covid-19 and provide results in around 30 minutes, rather than the 24 hours required after a PCR test.”

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

Relaxation of drivers’ hours rules

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also announced the temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours for hauliers to help drivers get through UK borders safely, including via Kent, during the coming weeks.

The rules came into force from midnight on 22 December and will apply until 11:59pm on 22 January 2021, subject to review.

The relaxation means:

  • the EU daily driving limit will be extended from nine hours to 11;

  • the daily rest requirements will be reduced from 11 to nine hours;

  • the weekly (56 hours) and fortnightly driving limits (90 hours) will increase to 60 and 96 hours respectively;

  • the requirement to start a weekly rest period after six 24-hours periods will be changed to after seven 24-hours periods; and

  • drivers of lorries within the Operation Brock queue or other queues in the Kent Traffic Management system can relax the break requirements to take two or three breaks of at least 15 minutes, which together are at least 45 minutes (within a 4.5 hours period).

For details on how to use the relaxation, see GOV.UK for full details.

This guidance emphasises that drivers should not use more than one relaxation at the same time as another in order to protect their welfare.

It also specifies that the relaxation applies to drivers involved in the international carriage of goods by road and between Great Britain and Northern Ireland where necessary. Otherwise the normal drivers’ hours rules are to be followed.