Queues of lorries heading for Harwich partially block main road
- Credit: Ivan Henderson
Council and port officials from Harwich have pledged to try to avoid a repeat of scenes this week which saw queuing lorries partially block the main road into the town and port after ferries were cancelled.
Scores of lorries heading for ferries from Harwich to Holland on Monday night found they were not able to sail because borders had been closed after the identification of the new strain of Covid-19.
Local councillor Ivan Henderson, who is leader of the Labour group on Essex County Council and a former MP for the area, said Monday night's problems showed the need for a better road to the port - and for better arrangements to handle lorries that had to wait to get on to the port area.
He said: "There is only really one road in or out, particularly for the village of Parkeston itself. That is a single-carriageway road and last night it was partially blocked by a long line of lorries heading to the port.
"That is not acceptable - and what would be even worse would be if emergency services had to get to the town. That would put people in real danger."
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Mr Henderson said he had been told there had been arrangements made to hold lorries either on the port or elsewhere if there were delays with ships - plans had been drawn up in case there were new customs checks delaying cargo passing through the port after the Brexit transition period ends in 10 days' time.
Essex local authorities, led by Tendring Council, have drawn up plans to try to avoid congestion on the roads in the even of blockages at the port - but some officials felt the port had been caught out when some drivers had tried to divert to there rather than Dover when those routes were closed. Some had also arrived early in a bid to beat any closure.
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A spokesman for Tendring said: "There are contingency plans for stacking areas to prevent lorries which hauliers and the ferry companies will tell drivers about. Last night there were a lot of lorries which arrived at the port but I hope that won't happen again."
A spokesman for the port said there had been problems on Monday evening and early today, but by mid-morning these had all cleared.
He said: “We are seeing a build-up of lorries without bookings diverting to Harwich International as a result of the closure of the short straits routes.
"We would urge drivers without bookings not to come to the port as there is no prospect of travelling without a pre-arranged booking and drivers with bookings not to arrive before the time of the booking.”