Bonn/Region Thousands of lorries are stuck in traffic jams in Great Britain shortly before Christmas. Truck drivers from Bonn and the region are also stuck there after many countries cut their connections to the island due to a mutation of the coronavirus.
The forwarding company Wirtz from Bornheim has three trucks stuck in Great Britain. One is at a rest stop north of London, "he's still lucky", reports managing director Wilfried Wirtz. The other two drivers are stuck in their vehicles in the middle of the motorway before Dover, "there is no food, no toilet, nothing". Nor do they hear that the Red Cross or other helpers have been found to look after them. He now hopes that the French and British governments will come to an agreement so that the French will reopen their border, because the drivers want to celebrate Christmas at home.
The drivers had only set off on Sunday afternoon with a full load, which had now been unloaded (including Solingen knives) and they were on their way back with empty vehicles. Originally, the French had declared the closure only until Tuesday evening. "That could quickly lead to a revolt by the drivers, that could turn into violence," says Wirtz, whose company transports fruit, vegetables, medicines and "theft-prone goods" such as laptops. "We have a lot of orders at the moment because of the Brexit, six loads are still waiting to be shipped to the UK," Wirtz reports.
Regular police patrols
5.4 kilometres before the exit to the Eurotunnel, Martin Ziege, who drives for the Königswinter-based freight forwarder JR Trans, is stuck. "After 22 hours, we were generously given a bottle of water," says the 58-year-old, who was making the second trip of his truck-driving life to the UK with a load of pumice to Stoke-on-Trent. Two lanes are completely clear, but there is not a porta-potty in sight, he complains about being let down by the authorities. Although the police patrol regularly, a helicopter circles over the traffic jam from time to time. "I have enough food on board," Ziege describes his situation. "The heating is running and I still have enough fuel." At first, there was talk of a 48-hour closure. But the Eitorfer doesn't really trust the situation. "I think I'll still be sitting here at Christmas."
At a rest area north of London, Torben de Vries stands with his truck. "I haven't joined the fray," so he keeps a safe distance from the big traffic jams, glued to his laptop, iPad or mobile phone to catch up on the latest news. There are rumours that the army might come by with rapid tests. On the other hand, horror stories were already circulating that all ferries were already booked up until 28 December. Nothing definite is known. His mother is waiting at Lake Tegernsee to spend Christmas there with her son, who drives for the Bornheim-based forwarding company Wirtz. "But that won't happen," he says under no illusions. "If in doubt, we'll just have to celebrate later.“
No mini xmas tree on the dashboard
Asked if he has at least installed a miniature flashing Christmas tree on the dashboard, his laughter can be heard over the phone. "No," he says with mock indignation, "nothing flashes or lights up here." Except for his technical equipment, which he is using to try to figure out how things are going with him and his colleagues. "Next to me are three German drivers. I'll probably spend Christmas with them," says the Cologne native, resigned to his fate. They are well provided for by the nearby restaurant and their own provisions in the cab. There is also enough fuel for the auxiliary heating. His biggest concern is the upcoming tests to contain the spread of the mutation from the island to the European continent.
"My biggest fear is that the test will be done on the island and I will have to go into quarantine here if it comes out positive," says de Vries. Or in France. But even without a test, it is still unclear for him when he will set foot on German soil again. Thousands of lorries are jammed in Great Britain. And because the traffic continues to roll there, there will be more and more of them. No one knows how quickly this gigantic traffic jam can be cleared. But the truck driver has a little calculation with a view to the Eurotunnel: "You can fit 30 trucks on one train. Three per hour..." Even if the avalanche of cars starts rolling, it will take days.
(Original text: Sylvia Binner and Ulla Thiede; Translation: Mareike Graepel)