Operation Brock: new development for freight traffic in the Eurotunnel

These are times of upheaval in the United Kingdom’s commercial relationship with the EU. And in the midst of Brexit’s whirlwind of uncertainty, a new concept has emerged: Operation Brock has come into force as a contingency mechanism to regulate land transport between the United Kingdom and the EU. But what does it consist of exactly, and what might its consequences for logistics be?

What Operation Brock consists of

Last 28 October, Operation Brock, a series of measures to alleviate traffic on the M20 motorway that leads into the Eurotunnel, was implemented for the second time. Causes of disruption that could unleash Operation Brock range from collapsed traffic on the motorway or at the Port of Dover to adverse weather, and of course, the corridor’s uncertain performance with road traffic in the event of Brexit.

More than anything else, Operation Brock consists of establishing a reversible lane system toward London between sections 8 and 9 of the M20. Moreover, as long as this traffic alteration lasts, a speed limit of 50mph (~80km/h) is ordered, affecting both private vehicles and freight vehicles less than 7.5 tonnes.

Indeed, the brunt of the situation is borne by lorries weighing more than 7.5 tonnes travelling toward the port or Eurotunnel, which shall be sent via the coastal road under a speed limit of 30mph (~48km/h). Additionally, they may be blocked in the aforementioned section of the motorway and forced to wait until traffic regains its normal flow before they can leave.

These are merely measures in the initial phases of Operation Brock, which are the ones that have been implemented to date. Given that the Operation consists of a set of scalable measures depending on the gravity of the situation, additional detours and controls may arise in the future.

Operation Brock, insurance against Brexit

While British authorities have occasionally attempted to dissociate the ideas of Brexit and Operation Brock, there is little doubt that they go hand-in-hand. On one hand, it is true that Operation Brock is an update to Operation Stack, which was activated when sections of the M20 suffered disruptions in ferry traffic or in the tunnel.

However, everyone is aware that Operation Brock has its sights set on a hard Brexit, meaning sudden and with no commercial agreement. Such an event would put a great deal of pressure on this corridor for incoming and outgoing freight between the United Kingdom and Europe. In fact, the last tentative Brexit date in March 2019 was what led to Operation Brock’s activation for the first time.

How to tackle Operation Brock’s inconveniences

As this is a contingency measure, Operation Brock is designed precisely to prevent blockage on this important exchange route. However, the intervention may not be beneficial to everyone and lead to delays in freight transport, given the new speed limits and additional freight controls.

We must bear in mind that Operation Brock is activated with no prior notice and may impact plans and deadlines for any logistical operation. British authorities request that those who will be travelling this route find out whether Operation Brock is activated beforehand and secure all necessary documentation to avoid delays. In the event that papers are not in order, the lorries may be redirected to a parking area where they must wait until they obtain approval. Moreover, authorities inform that a greater period of time must be allocated to this transfer.

To reduce the impact if the protocol is suddenly activated, having a logistical operator like Bilogistik is important. We plan deadlines properly and can foresee complications that may arise if Operation Brock is implemented, whether to deal with Brexit itself or any other traffic jam on the road or at the Port of Dover.

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