AFTER Brexit and a virulent new strain of the coronavirus complicated supply chains, the cost of moving freight from France to the United Kingdom surged to more than four times the usual level.

The spot rate for last-minute shipments across the English Channel reached more than 6 euros per kilometre for a full truckload in the final week of 2020. That’s up from an average of 1.50 euros to 3 euros, with some isolated cases of firms charging 10 euros per kilometre, according to data from the global logistics platform Transporeon.

Bloomberg reported that the figures reflect the “moment of maximum chaos at British ports”, when the French government shut the border to contain a new strain of COVID-19.

“Thousands of trucks piled up on both sides of the English Channel, and more shippers rejected cargoes to avoid getting trapped in transit over the holiday break,” the news agency reported.

Four days into the new year, the long lines of trucks at the border have largely dissipated after France relaxed its controls. The freight rejection rate ticked down in the last week but remains 79% higher than the third-quarter average.

Driver shortages over the holiday season are normal and usually lift spot rates, said Stephan Sieber, chief executive officer of Transporeon. But “the magnitude of the deviations we saw at the back end of 2020 was not normal”.

On Monday afternoon, there was a 1-kilometre line up to the Port of Dover and a 2-kilometre queue up to Calais. Crossings to France are taking about three hours and the journey back about four hours, according to real-time data from Sixfold, which is a unit of Transporeon.