The British and French governments have negotiated this Tuesday against the clock a solution that allows the reopening of the borders with the United Kingdom, starting this midnight, but they will require trapped truckers a negative test for the coronavirus (a PCR or a test for sensitive antigens to the new strain detected in British territory), a measure that threatens to cause congestion problems for days. The measure will allow the use of the longest European border of the United Kingdom by French citizens or residents in France, people in transit, transporters and all personnel related to the traffic of goods.
Thousands of trucks circulate daily through the Eurotunnel, the road that connects the ports of Dover and Calais. The decision of Paris, last Sunday, to close access to prevent the spread of the new strain of coronavirus detected in the United Kingdom caused chaos that was read on both sides of the English Channel as a preview of what will come when The Brexit transition period ends on the 31st.
The authorities that manage the Eurotunnel expected this Tuesday a total of 2,500 vehicles at the end of the day. The British Government announced the possibility of using the Army to begin applying rapid antigen tests (lateral flow test, with a saliva sample) to truckers, which offer results in less than 30 minutes. Along with the problems that such a challenge poses, there was also the confrontation between the governments of London and Paris regarding the appropriate test, according to the newspaper. The Times. The French Executive is suspicious of the accuracy of the saliva test, and demands that PCR be carried out, the result of which is not known until at least 24 hours after the test.
The kilometers and kilometers of trucks stopped on the A-20, the motorway that connects the town of Folkestone with the port of Dover, sank the spirits of all the transporters trapped in the United Kingdom who were confident that they could be at Christmas with their families. The videos were passed with the queues that they recorded with their mobile phones between them, as a warning, complaint and despair.
The British government of Boris Johnson did not even agree on the exact number of vehicles held at the entrance of the Eurotunnel, closed by order of France last Sunday. Transport Minister Grant Shapps on Monday referred to a number that sounded unreal. He claimed that there were about 170 trucks detained, waiting for a solution. Shortly afterwards, Highways England, the public body that manages the road network in England, corrected him, noting that there were about 900 paralyzed vehicles. Finally, the Minister of the Interior, Priti Patel, put some order in the data chaos and explained to the BBC that there were about 650 along the highway that connects Folkestone with Dover, and about 870 more at Manston airport, in Kent, temporarily converted into a car park and with the capacity to hold up to 4,000 vehicles. “To this must be added the case of many carriers who unloaded their merchandise from various parts of the country on Tuesday and were preparing to return to Dover. That is why our priority message is not to go to Dover, ”warned Patel.
Warning received. Fernando Venecia, 47, an Argentine living in Spain for 21 years, spoke desperately with EL PAÍS from a service station near Warrington, in the northwest of England. As soon as he heard of the chaos in Dover, he didn’t even consider going back to port. “We entered the tunnel at three in the morning on Sunday [van dos conductores, para poder cumplir los límites legales al volante]. It took us about seven hours until we were able to cross it. As we left the port, we could see the immense line of trucks that stood on the road that connects Folkestone with Dover. We did two downloads near London and the third in Manchester. That’s when we found out we were trapped, ”he says.
Any escape route, be it through Rotterdam, from the port of Hull, or from Santander or Bilbao through Portsmouth, was impossible. There was not a place available. Fernando condenses in his words the anger and suspicion of many transporters who, without providing data, are already clear, however, that they have been caught in a political war. “The prime minister you have here is concerned that the island does not lack lamb or beef, or fish, or cheese. cheddar, which is the only thing they produce. Now they have left the EU and France has decided to return the favor ”, he sums up. “That’s where the poor workers that we are come into play,” he laments.
Venice tells how colleagues who have diverted to Manston airport have portable latrines installed every 100 vehicles. This was confirmed by Rod McKenzie, the managing director of the Road Haulage Association, the British entity that groups and defends the interests of hauliers. “We are not treating them well as a country, we are not behaving well with all these truckers who are going through a very difficult situation at the moment,” he denounced.
Jesús Martínez, 41 years old, originally from Murcia, works for the Frigo-Transmur company. He is one of nearly two thousand drivers trapped on the airport runway. Account that the treatment of the authorities is not bad. They have given them water, information – scarce – and they take good care of them.
As he explains his situation, the horns of his companions are heard in the background, in protest. “There’s everything here. Spaniards, Bulgarians, Poles, Romanians, Italians … At first they were all quite calm, but as the hours have passed and the uncertainty has increased, the anger has increased ”, he says. Confirm that portable latrines are scarce, and it depends on where you have been able to park, very far away. Martinez unloaded his shipment of plastic containers near London, but, unlike Venice, he had no time to react and fell into Dover’s trap on his way back.
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