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The Salvation Army stepped in to feed truck drivers who were stuck on England’s motorway on Monday evening amid growing criticism of the UK government’s treatment of heavy-goods vehicle (HGV) drivers stranded in the county of Kent.
The charitable organisation confirmed to Business Insider on Tuesday afternoon that some of its volunteers worked from early evening until midnight to provide truckers with meals after Kent County Council asked for its help.
Over 900 lorries were parked on the M20 motorway on Monday night, according to Highways England, after France’s decision on Sunday to ban UK travellers from crossing the English Channel brought the vital trading route to a standstill.
That number exceeded 1,500 on Tuesday morning, forcing Boris Johnson’s UK government to turn an old airport in Manston, Kent into a lorry park for drivers trying to get to the ports of Dover and Felixstowe. Local media showed vast lines of stranded trucks along the major approaches to the port.
French President Emmanuel Macron took the emergency step of stopping UK travellers — including hauliers transporting goods — from entering France in order to contain the spread of a highly-infectious, new variant of the coronavirus discovered in the south of England.
A spokesperson for Prime Minister Johnson on Monday said that stranded lorry drivers would receive “welfare provisions” including toilet facilities and food & drink. A UK government official told Business Insider that each driver arriving at the Manston site would get a two-litre bottle of water, and that food and drink would “be available.”
However, Business Insider has seen an email sent to Johnson’s government this morning by logistics industry leaders, criticising the government’s “critical failure” to provide HGV drivers with sufficient hot food. The Salvation Army intervened to feed up to 200 HGV drivers due to a shortage of food supplies, the email to the Department for Transport said.
This follows reports that there was just one food van available to drivers at Manston Airport.
The Salvation Army confirmed that it fed drivers on Monday night, with Territorial Emergency Response Officer Adrian Clee telling Business Insider: “The Salvation Army has been working with the emergency services to provide welfare support for a number of stranded lorry drivers caught up in severe traffic delays on the M20.
“The South East Division was last night asked by Kent County Council to support the police as part of Operation Stack, where freight vehicles are parked along the carriageway because of delays at Eurotunnel or the Channel ports as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.”
He added:”A small team of staff and volunteers from The Salvation Army’s South East Division, using their incident response vehicle, worked for four to five hours up to midnight to deliver bagged meals to Kent Police for distribution to drivers in need.”
“Our emergency response teams are well known for supporting people in times of hardship and are often called on by the emergency services to provide food, drink and support at large incidents. Salvation Army volunteers have been pleased to roll up their sleeves to support drivers caught up in the delays.”
Richard Burnett of the Road Haulage Association told Business Insider that the treatment of HGV drivers since the border closure had been “absolutely shocking.”
“Drivers may well have provisions in their cabins but they’re going to run out,” he said. “The prime minister and secretary of state last night were saying that they were doing a great job. Well, they’re not.”
Members of Kent’s Sikh community said they also stepped into provide meals to 800 drivers stuck on the M20 motorway.
Business leaders today expressed frustration with the UK government’s handling of the border crisis.
The Food & Drink Federation’s Ian Wright told Members of Parliament that the chaos “should have been avoided” and called on the UK government to compensate businesses who have suffered financial losses as a result of “that failure of authority.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps earlier this evening tweeted that Britain had been “good progress” in its talks with the French government about re-opening the border, but that “hauliers must still NOT travel to Kent this evening.”
Rachel Reeves, the opposition Labour Party’s Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, told Business Insider tht “we must see decisive action instead of more dither and delay from this government.”