Ashford International Truckstop rose to the challenge and called on its colleagues in the rest of the GSE Group to help feed 1,000 truck drivers unable to leave the country and stuck on the M20.

Having contacted Kent County Council with an offer to donate food as part of its support for the stranded lorry drivers, the GSE Group team got the call late on Tuesday 22nd December, with a request for 650 grab bags of food to be delivered by 11 am on Wednesday 23rd December. This was later increased to 1,000 food bags to be prepared for distribution on Christmas Eve.

To meet the tight deadline, GSE Group Chairman, Darrell Healey, mobilised the staff at both the Hythe Imperial Hotel and Marquis at Granby in Alkham. near Dover, both part of the GSE Group. The decision was made to take staff off furlough to complete the task and be ready to start making the grab bags at 8am on Wednesday.

With no food in the hotel since the second lockdown, Nick Gauntlett, Executive Director at the Hythe Imperial, arranged for all the food to be delivered and supplied in just over 12 hours, and organised the reopening of the kitchens.

Commenting on the challenge, Darrell Healey, said: “Our team at the Ashford International Truckstop knew only too well of the plight of the hundreds of lorry drivers, each one of them alone in their cabs and facing the prospect of not moving for days.

“As we all wrestle with the impact of the pandemic and with Christmas fast approaching we knew we had to help. I’m so proud at how our team, like others in communities across Kent, have risen to the challenge to support these drivers who stock our shelves and keep our factories operating.”

Over the last 10 days Ashford International Truckstop has had to turn away nearly 1,150 lorries, which has forced many of them to park unofficially on local roads and lay-bys throughout the county.

Darren Smith, General Manager of the Ashford International Truckstop, added: “We’ve been at full capacity every night for the past two months due to the combination of the usual Christmas traffic plus the preparations of UK businesses for the end of the transition on 1 January.

“We all know off-road parking by HGVs is understandably unpopular locally, but hope that everybody understands the pressures that drivers are under during these difficult circumstances. Every driver would rather be homeward bound, than stuck in Kent waiting for the borders to re-open.”

The 1,000 grab bags were handed over on Christmas Eve by the GSE Group team to Highways England staff at its depot at Stamford on the M20 for them to be safely distributed to the drivers.

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