No-deal Brexit speed limit to remain in place for several months
A reduced speed limit introduced on a major Kent motorway in preparation for a no-deal Brexit will continue to slow journeys for several months.
Roads Minister Jesse Norman announced that steel barriers installed to ease traffic flow on a stretch of the M20 during disruption at Dover are unlikely to be removed before the end of October.
The barriers have reduced a northbound section of the motorway near Ashford from three lanes to two narrower lanes, meaning the speed limit has been cut from 70mph to 50mph for many drivers arriving in the UK from continental Europe.
The infrastructure makes it possible for lorries heading out of the UK to be held on the coastbound carriageway while a contraflow system limits congestion for people travelling within Kent.
The system, known as Operation Brock, was deployed on March 25, four days ahead of the first planned Brexit date.
It was deactivated around three weeks later following the delay to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, but the steel barriers and 50mph speed limit remain in place.
Last month, EU leaders granted the UK another extension to Brexit, lasting until October 31.
Responding to a written question about Operation Brock, Mr Norman stated: “The steel barrier on the London-bound carriageway will remain in place until further notice, to allow for the option of deploying the contraflow at short notice during times of cross-Channel disruption, caused by bad weather or industrial action as in the past, for example.
“The M20 barrier will remain under regular review over the coming months, but is unlikely to be removed before the end of October.”
He added that the Government-owned company Highways England is responsible for operational decisions regarding motorways.
Work to install the barriers involved around four weeks of road closures, and a similar amount of time would be required to remove the structures.
Highways England said reopening the third northbound lane now would prevent the quick implementation of Operation Brock in the future.
Philip Gomm of the RAC Foundation said: “We have supported measures to reduce the road chaos caused in Kent when there is cross-Channel disruption, but drivers could be forgiven for thinking what is supposed to be a temporary, emergency measure is looking increasingly permanent.
“Understandably removing the barriers will take time and trouble, but surely making the system relatively easy to install and dismantle should be a key part of the design?
“Road users might be more sympathetic if there was nothing else going on along the M20.
“But throw in the disruption caused by upgrades near Maidstone and the building of Junction 10a at Ashford, and at the moment along many stretches this is a motorway more in name than reality.”