Brexit: Operation Brock lorry park A256 trial under way

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A convoy of lorries has taken part in the first of two test runs aimed at tackling post-Brexit traffic queues. The group of 89 HGVs set off at 08:00 GMT from the disused Manston Airport, near Ramsgate in Kent, on a 20-mile route to the Port of Dover. At Dover, lorries were directed to the Eastern Docks roundabout where they did a loop and drove back to the airfield.

Hauliers fear 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”.

Up to 150 lorries had been expected to take part in the trial to test out the airport site as a mass HGV holding bay. The Conservative MP for Dover, Charlie Elphicke, has questioned the usefulness of the test.

“We’ve got to remember 10,000 lorries visit the Channel ports every single day so a test with less than 100 is not even a drop in the ocean,” he said. “Sending lorries around Kent on a wild goose chase all the way to Manston in the extreme north-east corner, and then sending them to the Port of Dover by a small A road is not the right answer.”

The trial, called Operation Brock, is testing how the A256 copes with increased lorry traffic. The first practice run began in rush-hour shortly after 08:00, with four convoys leaving at intervals between 08:13 and 08:39.

The first of the convoys arrived in Dover at 08:52, and a second practice run is due to take place from 11:00. Operation Brock is intended to maintain traffic flow on the M20 and prevent the kind of disruption experienced in 2015, when parts of the motorway were closed to cars for several days. The trial has been organised alongside the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and the Freight Transport Association.

Hauliers taking part in the Department for Transport’s exercise are being paid for their time, according to a manager of a firm participating in the test.

Kevin Powell, transport manager of Active Transport, said his company was paid its normal rate for the use of its lorries. The trial coincides with the day many people return to work and school for the first time since Christmas. Duncan Buchanan, of the RHA, said it should have been done nine months ago.

“These sort of practical, pragmatic tests need to be done – it just shouldn’t be done as late as this,” he said. 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. Prime Minister Theresa May is attempting to persuade MPs to support her draft Brexit deal.

MPs will vote on her deal on 15 January, government sources have confirmed.

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