Monday, January 7, 2019

Test for Channel Port Road Haulage Congestion a Success but Too Little and Too Late

Operation Brock Looks Like 'Window Dressing'
Shipping News Feature
UK – Despite the fact that Operation Brock having been crafted with the aid of the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and the Freight Transport Association (FTA), there was criticism of today's two government trials designed to test it whilst also educating the truck drivers involved. Brock is the system aimed at reducing confusion and congestion on the main route to Dover should post Brexit activity cause delays.

Today’s two trials started with four convoys setting out at staggered intervals from Manston Airport near Ramsgate between 8:13 and 8:40 this morning with the first lorries arriving in the Eastern Docks in Dover after a 40 minute trip. Less than 90 trucks were involved in the first trial whilst more were scheduled to start the route at 11:00. All the haulage operators were paid by their normal day rate with the Department for Transport picking up the bill.

There were varying opinions from drivers involvedin the trials, which were specifically aimed at testing the rush hour conditions, ranging from ‘a complete waste of time’ to ‘useful for me, but today only saw a tiny fraction of what happens when you get a situation like we have seen in the past’. This last refers to the horrors of Operation Stack which was initiated in 2013 and two years later saw it required on no less than 32 days.

The plan originated after preliminary government plans to construct a huge lorry park to cope with potential demand fell through. The government failed to include any environmental impact assessment in their plans to develop the site at Stanford West, Kent to accommodate up to 3,600 trucks and this led to them being thrown out. The government was then criticised after a freedom of information question revealed it had spent over £6 million to rent the Manston site between August 2015 and December 2017, despite it laying unused.  

Although the test was set to study how effectively traffic on the A256 could cope in such a situation it was referred to by Conservative MP for Dover, Charlie Elphicke as ‘not even a drop in the ocean’ as he compared less than 100 trucks which left the unused airfield to the 10,000 which he said used the Channel Ports daily. He continued:

"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."

A spokesman for the RHA said the trials were necessary but initiated too late with businesses still having no idea of what they were to do if new customs processes were introduced. RHA chief executive Richard Burnett commented:

“Of course it’s good to have a plan in place but today’s limited scope trial will need to be repeated to stress-test other aspects of the management of thousands of lorries properly. Today’s trial cannot possibly duplicate the reality of 4,000 trucks being held at Manston airport in the event of a no-deal Brexit. It’s too little too late, this process should have started 9 months ago. At this late stage it looks like window dressing.”