Brexit no-deal test, rehearsal in Kent ‘a waste of time’.
A live rehearsal of an emergency traffic system that will be put in place to prevent congestion in Dover in the event of a no-deal Brexit has been described as “a waste of time” by drivers participating in the test in Kent on Monday.
The Road Haulage Association said the dry run of a contingency traffic plan for the port was “too little, too late”.
The location for the Department for Transport’s trial was a disused airport north of the Kent port that was once used to test the bouncing bombs employed in the Dambuster raids in the second world war.
Under contingency plans, Manston airport will be used as a parking facility for 6,000 lorries, but only 89 participated in the trial staged at 8am on Monday.
The drivers, paid £550 each by the government, started their journey at dawn at the airport, where they queued before being given the go-ahead to drive to a second holding area, a three-mile stretch of the A256, which had been coned-off to normal traffic.
From there they were directed en masse to Dover, Britain’s biggest roll-on-roll-off port that handles about 10,000 lorries a day.
After the first dry run drivers said while it was good the government was doing something the exercise was so small it was pointless.
“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 Int Logistics.
It took about an hour for lorries to make the 20-mile journey to Dover and it appeared to go smoothly with no queues evident en route.
“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,” said David Martin, who is also a driver with Int Logistics.
He said the government’s contingency plan would create huge expense for drivers in petrol and other costs, particularly those who would be forced to go to Manston airport even if their final transit point was the Eurotunnel, several miles up the coast from Dover.
“When you’re doing that extra 40 miles two or three times a week and at eight miles to the gallon, it all adds up,” added Martin, whose company transports frozen and chilled food including cheese and yoghurt from the continent to British supermarkets.
Brexiters in favour of no deal say there will be no checks at Dover if the UK crashes out of the EU, but French authorities have warned that 100% of food and livestock has to be checked at special border inspection posts.
The Calais politician Xavier Bertrand has said a two-minute delay would lead to a 27,000-strong queue on both sides of the channel.
And the Road Haulage Association has said the documentation required if the UK leaves the single market is so impractical it would take eight hours per truck to complete. The challenge facing the government and Kent county council was evident at dawn as an argument broke out between marshals about where the trucks were supposed to go.