As the Brexit deadline looms and the possibility of a no-deal Brexit increases, the Department of Transport is carrying out a trial of a traffic congestion system in Dover.
A convoy of 79 HGV drivers arrived at the former Manston airport site where tests are underway to understand how travel problems can be alleviated at the ports post-Brexit. The process started this morning (7 January) in Ramsgate with more tests due to be held later in Dover.
Ministers believe the use of Manston will be crucial in the event of disruption, with Kent county council warning of the possible mayhem should a no deal take place. Not only has it warned of queuing traffic but the possibility of rubbish piling up due to non-collections and even children unable to get to school.
Under Operation Brock, the plan would be enforced post-Brexit, once capacity is reached to hold HGVs on the M20 - a modification of Operation Stack. It would see HGVs diverted from the Port of Dover to Manston and the A256. The long-term plan outlines capacity at Manston for up to 6,000 lorries.
Letters to hauliers from DfT and Kent County Council, which emerged last week, said the practice run would take place during morning rush hour at 8am and again at 11am to “establish the safest optimum release rate of HGVs” from the airfield to Dover along the A256.
A DfT spokeswoman said: “We do not want or expect a no-deal scenario and continue to work hard to deliver a deal with the EU. “However, it is the duty of a responsible government to continue to prepare for all eventualities and contingencies, including a possible no deal. We will be testing part of Operation Brock to ensure that, if it needs to be implemented, the system is fully functional.”
However, the government has come under fire for the delay in testing out such a scenario. The Road Haulage Association has called the test “window dressing”, and believes a test consisting of 79 lorries could not mimic the reality of 6,000 trucks.
"These sort of practical, pragmatic tests need to be done - it just shouldn't be done as late as this,” Duncan Buchanan of the Road Haulage Association added.