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Opportunity or burden? Plymouth expected to welcome more ferries in the event of no-deal Brexit

Brittany Ferries are expected to use Plymouth, Poole and Portsmouth as ports for 19 additional weekly crossings to Europe. Photo: ITV News

There are fears Plymouth won't be able to cope with extra traffic caused by more ferry sailings from the city in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The Government is planning for a dramatic increase in crossings to deal with the anticipated traffic chaos that could be caused around Dover.

A Department for Transport deal with Brittany Ferries will see many more weekly sailings added to its three routes, allowing thousands more lorries a week to come and go.

The news has been met with mixed feelings from businesses and politicians in Plymouth. Many welcome the idea that the government is putting a contingency strategy in place and an increased number of crossings could see more visitors welcomed into Plymouth.

But the main concern is over the port infrastructure in Plymouth, because there is limited tarmac space and just a single A-road connecting the port to the city centre. So there are fears that the potential backlog at Dover could come to Plymouth.

If a backlog occurs in Dover, ports like Plymouth could be used to ease pressure. Credit: PA Images

As the Government steps up its preparations for a no-deal Brexit, Brittany Ferries has been awarded a chunk of 108 million pounds to run extra services.

Ports like Plymouth are earmarked to ease the pressure on Dover, where there could be a backlog of traffic if customs checks come into force.

Brittany Ferries have a contract with the Department for Transport. Credit: PA Images

A Road Haulage firm in Plympton does 65% of its business with the continent, sending 7,000 loads to Europe each year.

The Chief Executive cannot see how increasing the number of ferry crossings will remedy the disruption from a no-deal Brexit.

Marc Payne believes the journey times of his trucks to Paris could double. Credit: ITV News

I don't see the addition of extra ferries the solution. All that'll do is spread the burden of the lorries going into the different ports. The real problem is going to be what happens to the lorries that land in this country, when they have to do customs clearance - that's where the problem lies.

The lorries are going to arrive at the ports and basically they're going to be delayed there. So whereas a journey for example from here to Paris may take 12 hours, that will probably take 20-24 hours.

– Marc Payne, CEO Armoric Freight

Local MP, Luke Pollard is also concerned that Plymouth's port does not have the road infrastructure to cope with any backlog of freight.

Luke Pollard MP has concerns that Plymouth's port infrastructure won't be able to cope. Credit: ITV News

Unlike in Dover where there's miles of three-lane motorways connecting Dover with the rest of the country, here we've got 200 metres of tarmac at Millbay before you hit Plymouth city centre. So we don't have the ability to park up trucks. We don't really have the space for new customs and veterinary checks to be built. But we need to understand whether we are going to require those in three months time with a hard no-deal Brexit.

– Luke Pollard MP, Labour Plymouth Sutton and Devonport

Brittany Ferries say the plans will see 19 additional weekly crossings spread across ports in Plymouth, Poole and Portsmouth - with a 50% increase in freight capacity.

Some suggest this could also present new opportunities.

One Conservative councillor believes extra ferries could present opportunities for Plymouth. Credit: ITV News

Anything that brings more people into the city is going to be a good thing and again we're adaptable it's important that we're ready for that and I think we need to seize as an opportunity. If no deal happens we need make as many positives out of it as we possibly can.

– Cllr Rebecca Smith, Con Plymouth City Council

The Government insists this latest move will keep goods flowing into the country in the event of a no-deal Brexit. But with less than 100 days to go until we leave the European Union many businesses still feel they are being kept in the dark.