After 48 hours of total shutdown, links between the United Kingdom and France resumed during the night of December 22 to 23. Thousands of trucks are still stranded across the Channel. Laurent Beghin, driver from Dunkirk, will not be back for Christmas. It testifies.
“This year there will be no Christmas for me.” Laurent Beghin accuses the blow. This truck driver from Dunkirk, working for the transporter Pech et Fils installed in Bierne, wants to be pragmatic. Left Dunkirk on Sunday morning at around 5 a.m. to deliver fruit and vegetables to the suburbs of Manchester, he is currently stranded in England.
Last Sunday evening, the French authorities announced the closure of the borders with the United Kingdom for 48 hours, after the discovery of a variant of the coronavirus, whose transmission is 40 to 70% more important.
This Wednesday morning, cross-Channel links timidly resumed, but road transport unions estimate that 11,000 trucks are still parked on the other side of the Channel. Truck drivers must present a mandatory negative test to return to the mainland.
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70 pounds fine for inconvenient parking
On Monday, Laurent Beghin drove in the direction of the shuttle to return to France. “On the way back, I was stuck on a motorway rest area but it was overloaded, says the truck driver. So I found a place on the side of a national road where there were hundreds of trucks. “
The next morning, a bad surprise on his windshield: he discovers a PV of 70 pounds, telling him that he was not allowed to park there. “But where do they want me to park? Everything is overloaded” Laurent Beghin is offended. Like hundreds of other heavy goods vehicles, he was driven by the police to the tarmac at Margate airport, located about thirty kilometers from the embarkation area in Dover.
Illustration of the queues of heavy goods vehicles on the tarmac at the English airport.
© WILLIAM EDWARDS / AFP
“There is only one sink for 7000 drivers”
It has now been more than 24 hours since the Dunkirk driver parked his truck among thousands of others on the tarmac. “We have nothing to eat, they only distribute small bottles of water” he testifies, this Wednesday noon. According to him, the reception conditions are deplorable. “There is only one sink for 7,000 drivers and I am not telling you about the dismal condition of the two toilets.”
“Imagine an airstrip full of heavy goods vehicles. It’s raining heavily, we have no information (…) I haven’t eaten for 24 hours and I can’t wash myself.”
You have to imagine “at least 30 lines of parked heavy goods vehicles” on the tarmac of the airport, awaiting information to be tested and thus be authorized to return to the continent. “We are herded like animals, like cattle, sums up the truck driver. It is shameful.”
“There will be no family Christmas for me this year”
According to him, he will not be tested before “Thursday or Friday.” Direct consequence, impossible to celebrate Christmas as a family with his wife and children in Dunkirk, despite the mobilization announced by the French Minister of Transport.
And the situation begins to flare up. Clashes took place between some drivers and the police in Dover. On the tarmac of Margate airport, the fences are cut. “At the same time, telling them that they cannot spend family celebrations with their children is terrible”, summarizes Eric Pech, the boss of Laurent Beghin.
Eric Pech is also a member of the board of directors of the National Federation of Road Transporters (FNTR) of Pas-de-Calais. “I have never seen that, he recounts. They are herded like animals and they are treated as such. We are back in the 19th century and we are completely let down by the public authorities. “
The FNTR is awaiting news from the ministry. The federation estimates at 3,000 the number of French truck drivers currently stranded on the other side of the Channel.