Government spent £65k on its fake traffic jam

PUBLISHED: 12:46 21 January 2019

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, a champion of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain. Pic: Polly Hancock

Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake, a champion of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain. Pic: Polly Hancock

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The government spent £65,000 on its fake traffic jam to test plans for border disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit, it has emerged.

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Earlier this month a convoy of 89 lorries took part in two test runs from the disused Manston Airport near Ramsgate in Kent on a 20-mile route to the Port of Dover.

The stunt was widely derided, with Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, saying it “cannot possibly duplicate the reality of 4,000 trucks that would be held at Manston Airport in the event of a no-deal Brexit”.

And today it emerged the Department for Transport spent £60,000-£65,000 of taxpayers’ money on the test, known as Operation Brock - clocking in at £1,625 a mile.

The department said the test went well and traffic ran smoothly.

But Mr Burnett described it as “window dressing” and Charlie Elphicke, the Conservative MP for Dover, said: “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.

“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.”

Lorry drivers who spoke to journalists on arrival back at Manston after the first test said there had been “no problems whatsoever”.

But one driver said he thought it had been “a waste of time”.

Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat MP and champion of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain whose parliamentary question revealed the figure, said: “For Chris Grayling, blowing £65,000 of taxpayers’ money on paying lorry drivers to drive round in circles and drink coffee is just loose change. He normally squanders millions.

“This money would obviously have been better spent on the salaries of two nurses or police officers instead of a hare-brained scheme attempting to simulate the chaos associated with major no-deal linked disruption at Dover.”

The full response from Grayling said: “The cost to reimburse hauliers for the operational and time costs and the owners of Manston airfield for site management costs was £60,000-65,000.

“There will also have been some costs incurred by Kent Police and Kent County Council associated with their staff attending the trial.

“These and other costs for, if necessary, using Manston to hold HGVs are considered appropriate against the very high economic and traffic congestion associated with closing the M20 if we could not use Manston.”

Each driver taking part in the exercise was paid £550, the DfT said.

Tracey Ives, who owns haulier INT Logistics, said at the time: “I would have thought we would have got a better, more realistic overview of it all if it hadn’t been advertised beforehand.”

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