Less than 90 vehicles take part in No-deal Brexit Kent lorry rehearsal. Really?
In attempt to test emergency traffic system designed to cope with thousands of vehicles, the trial today at Manston airport with fewer than 90 HGVs has resulted in little support for the value of the rehearsal.
The disused ‘Dambusters’ airport north of Dover is the location for a lorry park under the government’s current contingency plans. In the case of a no-deal Brexit this could create additional border checks, leading to queues of up to 29 miles. This contingency plan aims to maintain traffic flow on the M20 and prevent the kind of disruption experienced in 2015, when parts of the motorway were closed to cars for several days.
The first phase of the dry run saw lorries sent on their way in groups of 10 to Dover from the airport site.
— Kent Police RPU (@kentpoliceroads) January 7, 2019
However when the channel ports have over 10000 lorries visiting daily, a test run consisting of less than 90 vehicles seems rather pointless. Which many appear to agree. Even the drivers taking part in the test run.
“It’s a waste of time. They should have done it in rush-hour. You can see the traffic here is just average. This is not what it will be like in no-deal,”
said Adam Carter, a driver with IntLogistics.
“To be honest, it was a waste of time. At least they have done something and it worked, but 80 trucks from our point of view isn’t testing the system,”
added David Martin, another driver with IntLogistics.
The Road Haulage Association’s, Rod Mackenzie, tweeted:
Dawn at #Manston airport and the #NoDealBrexit lorry park drill: as an exercise – fine – but should have been done 9 months ago and repeatedly stress tested – too little too late – window dressing @RHANews pic.twitter.com/KMxbLEvtD2
— Rod McKenzie (@RHARodMcKenzie) January 7, 2019
Dover MP Charlie Elphicke tweeted that using Manston is not the answer.
“Routing lorries via Manston is not the answer. Far better to extend the tried and tested traffic management system on the A20 at Dover to Kent’s motorways.
“That way lorries can be effectively managed, got most speedily to the ports and all our motorways can be kept open. Manston should only be used as a last resort. The speed lorries can be got down to the port is too slow.
“Trying to explain to lorry drivers – many from overseas – to go there will be very difficult. The whole route plan is far to complex and will cause enormous confusion.
“Better to stick to what lorry drivers are most used go – going to the Channel Ports via the M20/A20. Yet using traffic management to keep the motorways open and use Manston only after road capacity is used up.”
There will be no checks
Those in favour of no-deal claim there will be no checks at Dover if we leave without a deal.
But that’s not what French authorities appear to be saying. They have warned that 100% of food and livestock will be required to be checked at border inspection posts.
Xavier Bertrand, Calais politician stated:
“If there are delays of two minutes there will be queues of 27km on both sides – that’s 54km 34 miles. Even at the moment you see queues of 1km to the tunnel – and that is where there are no checks. Imagine what it will be like with checks.”
Chairman of Manston Supporters group, Ruth Bailey, tweeted:
“Do 83 lorries constitute any thing like a real test? Surely this is no more than a PR exercise for a Government that is in complete shambles.”
Labour MP Stephen Doughty added:
“This is yet more extraordinary incompetence from this shambolic government.”
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, described the exercises as a “taxpayer-funded farce”.
“No deal doesn’t need to be a real prospect but the government are just throwing money down the drain for effect,” she said.
“Chris Grayling and his department have spent tens of thousands to create the spectacle of vehicles in a traffic jam to get into a disused airport , who then wait on the site for the green light to then create a traffic jam by snaking their way … in convoy, to Dover.”
However, the DfT says the first roll out of lorries went well.
“Any lessons learned from today will be carefully considered and mitigating measures looked at,” a DfT spokesman said.
“This is designed to test what happens if there is no deal and Operation Brock is implemented,”
said a spokesman referring to the codename for the Brexit traffic management plan.