Brexit: Manston Airport to host lorry park trial

Lorries parked on the M20 near Charing, Kent, as part of Operation Stack Image copyright PA
Image caption The government hopes to prevent a repeat of Operation Stack, which shut the M20 in 2015

Plans to tackle post-Brexit traffic queues by holding lorries in a disused Kent airport will be tested on Monday, it has been revealed.

More than 100 HGVs will travel the 20-mile route from Manston Airport, near Ramsgate, to the Port of Dover.

Hauliers fear that a no-deal Brexit will create additional border checks, leading to queues of up to 29 miles.

The government said it had to "prepare for all eventualities... including a possible no deal".

Theresa May is attempting to persuade MPs to support her draft deal, but has faced opposition, including from the DUP, which props up the Conservative government.

Duncan Buchanan, of the Road Haulage Association (RHA), which helped to organise the trial, told the BBC: "These sort of practical, pragmatic tests need to be done - it just shouldn't be done as late as this.

"It should have taken place nine months ago."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Manston Airport closed in May 2014

It is part of Operation Brock, which is intended to maintain traffic flow on the M20 and prevent a repeat of road closures experienced in 2015 under Operation Stack.

The trial, which will take place between 08:00 and 11:00 GMT on the day many return to work for the first time after Christmas, will test how the A256 copes with increased lorry traffic. It has been organised with the help of the RHA and the Freight Transport Association.

Mr Buchanan said import and export businesses on both sides of Channel had "no idea how they are going to deal with the customs process" under a no-deal Brexit.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Additional customs procedures are expected to create tailbacks

He said any additional customs checks would lead to queues, adding: "The more rigorous the customs, the longer the queues are likely to be."

He said the Department for Transport (DfT) had hoped to keep the trial "pretty confidential", but details were leaked to local press.

A DfT spokesman 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."

Kent County Council said: "We are working with the Department for Transport to ensure there is an effective plan in place should there be any disruption once the UK has left the EU."

It said Operation Brock "would have taken place regardless of the result of the referendum, to improve contingency arrangements for a range of scenarios which could result in cross-Channel disruption, including bad weather and industrial action".

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