As Parliament returns for a vote next week on the Government’s Brexit deal with the EU, the Department for Transport (DfT) has tested its plans to manage the thousands of lorries that could be held up at Dover by customs checks.
It was reported that 79 lorries took part in the trial on Monday (7 January), which involved releasing lorries from Manston airfield in Kent towards Dover and then holding them on a cordoned-off inside lane on the A256.
The DfT had hoped that up to 150 lorries would take part in the trial. It had not previously announced the exercise but its plans had leaked to a local newspaper.
The Government said it wants to avoid any repeat of the scenes in 2015 when Operation Stack was deployed to address disruption at the border, resulting in long-term traffic problems on the M20 and on other Kent roads.
The DfT said that Operation Brock has been designed to ensure that, unlike Operation Stack, the M20 will be kept open and traffic will continue to flow in both directions at times of cross-Channel disruption.
In October, transport secretary Chris Grayling said that Operation Brock consists of three phases, a contraflow queuing system on the M20, a holding areas at Manston Airport and, if necessary, a holding area on the M26.
A DfT spokesperson 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.’
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) described the exercise as ‘window dressing’. Its managing director of policy and public affairs, Rod McKenzie, said the exercise was ‘fine’ in itself - but ‘too little too late’ and should have been done nine months ago and repeatedly stress tested.