Trial runs to test the effectiveness of using the Manston airport site as a lorry park to deal with post-Brexit traffic backlogs will be carried out on Monday (January 7).
The run organised by the Department for Transport, with between 100 and 150 HGVs, will assemble at Manston at 7am, leaving at approximately 8am, and then follow the route to Dover. A second run will take place at 11am.
Communication from the DfT to Cliffsend Parish Council says: “The use of Manston airfield as an HGV holding facility is one of the traffic management measures as part of the current draft plan to alleviate congestion on Kent roads in the event of any disruption at the border. This also now includes if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, should there be any disruption.
“To ensure the route from Manston to Dover can safely withstand an increase in HGV traffic, we are conducting a live test on Monday 7th January. This test will establish the safest optimum release rate of HGVs from Manston airfield along the proposed route on the A256 to the Port of Dover, and how any impacts could be managed.
“The DfT has sought participation of up to 150 HGVs from hauliers, via contacts through the Road Haulage Association and Freight Transport Association, to carry out the test. The intention is for two test runs to take place, one in the morning peak time departing around 08:00, and another departing at around 11:00, to assess times taken from Manston airfield along the A256, and from the bottom of the A256 to the Eastern Docks roundabout at the entry of the Port.
“The A299 from Minster Roundabout to Cliffsend Roundabout will have lane one coned off to allow HGVs to safely join the Thanet Way. They will then travel South along A299 and A256 to a temporary holding point before joining the A2 to the Eastern Docks Roundabout. Staff will be positioned along the whole route throughout the trial to monitor flows. If required at any time, flows from Manston can be halted as needed.”
Asked which route -the A256 or the Thanet Way – a DfT spokesman said no further details could be given on a live route. However, KCC confirms the route will be along the Hengist Way, Sevenscore roundabout and the A256 then on to the A2 into Dover. HGVs will arrive at Manston along Spitfire Way from the Thanet Way and then use exits on to Hengist Way and on to Canterbury Road West.
A haulier insider said 150 lorries would equate to some one-and-a-half-miles in length.
County council plans
The Manston airport site has been earmarked for dealing with expected backlogs in a plan from Kent County Council.
The authority used scaled-up estimates of previous Operation Stack impacts and some high-level border checking analysis undertaken by Government, These have been used to form a Traffic Management Plan to ensure Kent’s highways continue to be open.
The plan looks at the impact of queuing traffic arising from border changes following the UK’s exit from the European Union on March 29.
It has been forecast that, in a no-deal Brexit scenario, Kent will need to cope with holding up to 10,000 HGVs on a routine basis.
KCC Highways and partners have devised a dedicated ‘Freight Traffic Management Plan.’
The plan uses information from Highways England, Kent Police, KCC Highways and other agencies.
Operation Brock – the updated version of lorry queuing system Operation Stack- contains 5 phases for dealing with a backlog of HGVs. Phase 1 uses the A20 and Dover and Eurotunnel buffer zones, phase 2 is a contraflow system on the M20, phase 3 uses the A256 and sends up to 6,000 lorries to be parked up on the Manston airport site.
Phase 4 uses the M26 and phase 5 takes traffic out of the county
In November 2017 a Government arrangement to use the site as an emergency lorry park for Operation Stack was extended for two years, allowing it to be used until December 31, 2019.
A Kent County Council spokesman said:“We are working with the Department for Transport to ensure there is an effective plan in place should there be any disruption once the UK has left the EU.
“Operation Brock has been designed to ensure that, unlike Operation Stack, the M20 will be kept open and traffic will continue to flow in both directions at times of cross-Channel disruption. Work on this new approach, Operation Brock, would have taken place regardless of the result of the referendum, to improve contingency arrangements for a range of scenarios which could result in cross-Channel disruption, including bad weather and industrial action.
“The use of Manston airfield as an HGV holding facility is one of the traffic management measures in the DfT’s current draft plan to alleviate congestion on Kent roads in the event of any disruption at the border. On Monday 7th January there is a live test involving around 150 HGVs taking the route from Manston to Dover. This test will establish the safest optimum release rate of HGVs along the proposed route on the A256 to the Port of Dover, and how any impacts could be managed.
“We very much look forward to hearing feedback on the trial from the DfT.”