@DriveEurope September Shutdown

Daily updates suspended @DriveEurope for the next six weeks as we get to grips with Brexit (and our backlog).

Also, real time links for traffic, travel and weather. And, Volvo unveils ‘the world’s fastest truck’. Work restarts on final sections of controversial Sofia-Thessaloniki motorway.

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@DRIVEEUROPE SEPTEMBER SHUTDOWN

Regrouping post-Brexit, and move up north.

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Carsington Water, Derbyshire Peak District. Moving north @DriveEurope might have been disruptive but it comes with many benefits.

Our first response to the Brexit vote in June was to keep calm and carry on.

Brexit could be a good thing, obviously.

But there’s no getting away from the fact that it has fundamentally recast the rationale behind @DriveEurope and we need some down time to think it through.

‘Europe’ and the Continent just feel less relevant these days – though keeping abreast of EU transport policy, and what happens on its roads, will be as important as ever.

That’s one reason why @DriveEurope will be back.

Another is that we still love it. Not just the seven-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day blog and twitter operation over the past three years – it’s become a way of life – but the actual driving part too.

There’s much excitement here about our next trip, next month, around France.

Meanwhile, moving up north has also been hugely disruptive.

It meant we missed our traditional spring road trip but, more importantly, it stopped us shifting the blog up a gear.

Like all the best road trips, @DriveEurope needs to break new ground to keep it interesting.

Need-to-know information will always be free but long term the blog needs to make money.

Disappointingly, exciting plans from earlier in the year have so far come to nothing. This cannot go on.

So, the daily blog and traffic roundups are suspended for the next month, ahead of the France trip, while we regroup, rethink, reorganise, tackle the backlog and generally chill out a bit.

It won’t be possible to leave @DriveEurope totally alone. We’ll keep abreast of developments, just not with the usual intensity. Should anything really important happen we’ll be as all-over-it as we have been in the past.

Finally, heartfelt thanks to all readers and sorry, particularly, to those who feel their safety net has been taken away for the next six weeks. Don’t worry, at worst you will be fine.

Resources: see Traffic/Travel/Weather for the links we use to compile our daily briefs – Meteoalarm for extreme weather warnings; Weatheronline for the forecast; and direct links for the service updates from the cross-Channel operators, including ports of Dover and Calais. TomTom has precise info on delays on particular stretches of road – though you have to register – but for a really good overview see Google maps traffic tab. The Swiss TCS website is best for checking delays at the Gotthard Tunnel; the Mont Blanc Tunnel has its own regularly updated website.  

In general, we advise against driving into Calais port overnight thanks to regular migrant road blocks on the A216/N216 ‘rocade’ port access road. If you have to get into Calais port at night, drive through the town centre off the A16 and follow signs to the port. There have been no reported problems driving out of Calais at night.

Meanwhile, there has no repeat of the horrendous passport control queues seen at Dover last month. At worst this week, drivers have waited up to 30mins. However, DFDS warns drivers returning to the UK through Calais or Dunkirk this weekend – 19-22 August – to allow 90 minutes to check-in.

Traffic: like last year, holiday traffic is dragging on for longer than expected. Last weekend – 12-14 August – was France’s busiest of the year after two damp squib so-called ‘Black Saturdays’, for instance. In theory however, roads should start to calm down now ahead of a completely quiet September in France, though queues at Gotthard will carry on for a few weeks yet. See more.

Borders: delays continue to dog cross-border roads between Belgium and northern France, particularly the A16/E40 towards Calais and Dunkirk. For heading between the Channel ports and east Belgium, Germany, the North and the East consider ‘the bottom way’ E42 via Lille and Charleroi. Otherwise, random motorway border queues hit drivers between Austria and Germany – and, especially at the moment, from Hungary to Austria – and between France and Spain, particularly at the Atlantic border.   

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The body is bespoke but the engine and seamless double clutch transmission of Volvo’s ‘The Iron Knight’ is standard – except for some extra turbochargers which boost power from a production 760bhp to a record ready 2400bhp. With Boije Ovebrink behind the wheel, next Wednesday the Swedish truck manufacturer takes a tilt at the 500m and 1000m standing start speed records. See more.

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roundup: BULGARIA. Building restarts on some of the final sections of the ‘Struma Motorway’, the 156km road between capital Sofia and Greece (and on to Thessaloniki). First up will be a 24km stretch south of the very environmentally sensitive Kresna Gorge, linking with an existing section all the way to the border reports Novinite.com. Next year, works begins on a 13km section from Blagoevgrad and Krupnik, also linking to an existing stretch north to Sofia. This leaves a 21km gap through the gorge itself which was to have featured – controversially – one of Europe’s longest tunnels. Plans have apparently now been downgraded to the 2.2km ‘Zhelenitsa Tunnel’ plus two 700m viaducts, one at each end. Seventeen companies have bid for the contract says the Independent Balkan News Agency.

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