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Eurostar stopping at Ashford and Ebbsfleet again could limit chaos from new EU entry and exit system, KCC leader claims

The government has been urged to ensure everything is done to mitigate the impact of new EU ‘entry and exit’ tests amid continuing concerns the delays could gridlock the county.

The new system comes into effect in October and involves a range of different agencies in a potentially complicated arrangement with the French border force and police.

Queues at the Port of Dover at the start of the school holidays. There are fears this could become the norm when the new checks are introduced. Picture: Barry Goodwin.Queues at the Port of Dover at the start of the school holidays. There are fears this could become the norm when the new checks are introduced. Picture: Barry Goodwin.
Queues at the Port of Dover at the start of the school holidays. There are fears this could become the norm when the new checks are introduced. Picture: Barry Goodwin.

The leader of KCC Roger Gough told a cabinet meeting this week that delays remained likely when the checks start at the beginning of October.

He said: “The key issues are the juxtaposed border controls and the need for oversight from the French authorities; there are potential remote solutions but they will not be in place before October.”

He added that one way in which long delays and queues for passengers travelling on Eurostar from St Pancras could be addressed would be to bring back services that were no longer running from Ashford and Ebbsfleet.

“There are potential implications for Eurostar trains from St Pancras. Anyone who has taken a train from St Pancras will know how different an experience that now is from what it was; there are serious implications; that [resuming stopping trains] at Ashford and Ebbsfleet stations could be part of the solution.”

Eurostar has ruled out restoring stopping trains at Kent’s two international stations indefinitely, saying they are not commercially viable.

Cllr Roger Gough think bringing Eurostar back to Kent might help mitigate the trafficCllr Roger Gough think bringing Eurostar back to Kent might help mitigate the traffic
Cllr Roger Gough think bringing Eurostar back to Kent might help mitigate the traffic

Cllr Gough said the focus for the council would be on mitigating the impact and where mitigation was not possible, there would be wide-ranging communications to keep travellers and residents informed.

The scale of the challenge would be a test of the resilience of many different services involved, from trading standards through to National Highways and French border force.

Cllr Neil Baker, KCC cabinet member for highways and transport, said he had “huge concerns” about the impact the new exit and entry system would have on Kent.

He told colleagues that the moment Operation Brock was installed and active, it impacted immediately on the tourist economy and council services such as emptying household bins; at the same time, schools could be forced to shut.

“There are huge numbers of moving parts to this and it comes down to what can we do to make people and the government aware. We all know when Op Brock is implemented, Kent becomes the country’s lorry park – at least it feels like it. The impact is absolutely huge…this is one which could last some time.”

A cabinet report on the checks warned: “New registration requirements at the Port of Dover and the limited space in the buffer zone between the Eastern Docks roundabout and the French customs booths is expected to increase times to process both tourist traffic entering the port and outbound freight, 85% of which is from the Schengen areas. Such delays present a risk of widespread congestion across both the national and local highway networks.”

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