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  1. ITV Report

Manston no-deal Brexit test 'too little too late'

  • Watch the full report by Sarah Saunders below about Monday's trial of Operation Brock

Interviewees: David Zaccheo, Haulier & Sir Roger Gale MP, Thanet North, Con & Charlie Elphicke MP, Dover, Con & Toby Howe, Highways Manager, Kent County Council

Fewer than 100 lorries turned up at Manston airfield on Monday to take part in a trial of Operation Brock.

The practice saw lorries descend on the abandoned airstrip in East Kent and travel in convoy to the port of Dover.

It was to see what would happen if there is UK border disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The Government plans to use the airfield as a giant HGV holding bay to prevent traffic jams around Channel ports.

89 lorries took part in the trial on Monday Credit: ITV Meridian

Authorities hoped up to 150 trucks would be involved, according to letters which emerged last week, but 89 arrived on the morning at the disused airfield which has a capacity of just under 4,000.

Some 10,000 lorries may be held on Kent roads on a routine basis if there is no deal, the council previously warned.

The exercise was "too little too late" and could not "possibly duplicate" the anticipated reality, according to the Road Haulage Association's chief executive Richard Burnett.

He said the test may need to be repeated, adding: "This process should have started nine months ago. At this late stage it looks like window dressing."

  • Our reporter Andy Dickenson has been in the nearby village of Minster to gauge reaction from locals

Interviewees: Paul Mc Carthy, Deputy Headteacher & Steve Bamford, Minster Taxis

The criticism comes just days after questions were raised over a £13.8 million no-deal Brexit contract awarded by DfT to a ferry company which has not yet run services and faced accusations it copied part of its terms and conditions from a takeaway firm.

Adam Carter, a driver for INT Logistics, branded the lorry test "a waste of time" because the traffic was "average", according to The Guardian.

But the owner of the Folkestone-based company Tracey Ives told Press Association the test ran "smoothly" and was "well-organised", adding: "The roads were very quiet today."

She suggested motorists may have avoided the area after the test was publicised.

Credit: ITV Meridian

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, of the anti-Brexit Best For Britain campaign, said it was a "taxpayer-funded farce" while Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald said it was "beyond parody".

Fellow Labour MP David Lammy said there was "no better representation of the sheer absurdity of Brexit".

Conservative Dover MP Charlie Elphicke said the plan was "not the answer" as it was "too complex", likely to cause "enormous confusion" and should be a last resort.

Gary Moore, who lives in the town, said truck traffic has been known to bring its whole road system to a "standstill", adding: "There has to be a plan that works."

The trial was not about numbers and the amount which took part was sufficient, a DfT spokesman said.

Credit: ITV Meridian

The council's highway manager Toby Howe said carrying out the DfT-led trial earlier "wouldn't have really made any difference", adding: "We've still got a couple of months to make any changes we need to make in time."

He said it would not have been possible to use the large numbers predicted for a test and the exercise had been "really useful" to see how lorries could "get out en masse from the airport" and how this would affect the roads as well as travel time.

£550
the amount regional and national hauliers were offered per truck to take part

Shortly after 8am, and again at 11am, the queue of lorries left the former Kent International Airport - which closed in 2014 - and travelled the 20-mile route along the A256 to the Eastern Docks roundabout in Dover before returning.

The journey normally takes half-an-hour depending on traffic.

In the first test, four convoys left at intervals before a single stream of lorries drove away during the second test so officials could try out different scenarios, a DfT spokesman said.

The first batch of lorries to leave took about 35 minutes to complete the trip.

Traffic was light on the route and the lorries did not seem to cause an extra congestion.

The plan, if enacted, would be used alongside tried and tested measures of queuing up to 3,500 lorries along the M20 and even on the M26.

Credit: ITV Meridian

"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.

"Any lessons learned from today and further mitigation measures will be considered carefully to ensure Operation Brock is fully functional if needed."

– Dft spokesperson