The Road Haulage Association has branded today’s ‘post-Brexit’ HGV trial run from Manston to Dover as ‘window-dressing.’
A spokesman said the trial, involving less than 90 lorries on the first run at 8.15am today, “cannot possibly duplicate the reality of 4,000- 6,000 trucks that would be held at Manston airport in the event of a no-deal Brexit.”
Lorries, which had been due to use the emergency exit by Jentex on to the Canterbury Road West but instead left the other end of the site on to the A299, were released in small batches for the test run organised by the Department for Transport and Kent County Council.
- Find video of the trial at https://youtu.be/zTvRWT2Ptfc
The Manston airport site has been earmarked for dealing with expected HGV backlogs in a plan from Kent County Council. The Department for Transport today confirmed to the BBC that each driver was paid £550 to take part in the run – equating to just under £50,000.
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. Manston is earmarked to hold up to 4,000 lorries.
RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “Of course it’s good to have a plan in place but today’s trial will need to be repeated to stress test it properly.
“Today’s trial cannot possibly duplicate the reality of 6,000 trucks that would be held at Manston airport in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
“It’s too little too late – this process should have been started 9 months ago. At this late stage it looks like window dressing.”
South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay has called the post-Brexit road plan ‘far-fetched.’
He said: “We have the ‘dress rehearsal’ of lorry movements from Manston to Dover in case Operation Stack/Brock comes in to play if French customs play up after 29th March. All seems a little far-fetched to me as the Europe wide logistics industry would grind to a halt with losses experienced across much of the EU if German, Polish and Romanian lorries become stuck in the UK because of intransigent behaviour in Calais. ”
Trial run for the port?
Labour County Councillor Karen Constantine has raised the question of whether a dry run will also be organised for freight using the proposed Ramsgate-Ostend ferry service which Seaborne Freight says will launch by the end of March.
The company, which received a £13.8million government contract for the route in the event of a no deal Brexit, says two ships will initially run the route.
There has, however, been widespread criticism of the government award as Seaborne is a start-up company currently with no ships or track record.
The issue is expected to be raised again in Parliament this week.
Cllr Constantine said: “What happens to the proposed freight when the tunnel is closed? Of course it must wind its way up through Ramsgate. Take a closer look at the road outside Churchill’s pub and the old Motor Museum. I’m not sure it’s in the best condition to take the hundreds of thousands of tons of additional weight.”
Resurfacing works are due to take place on the Royal Harbour Approach from the eastern end of the tunnel up to and including the roundabout at the western extent. Work starts on January 18 and should take 3 nights to complete. The route will be shut from 8pm-6am each night. The diversion route will be via the A255 and B2054 to Military Road.
Cllr Constantine added: “How about KCC organise a ‘dry run’ during these times, so Ramsgate can really asses the impact of KCC’s folly?”