Is the Manston airfield lorry park plan ‘too little too late’?


There are just a couple of months to go until Brexit and the prospect of no-deal looks increasingly likely. Should that happen, there’s been a lot of concern over what it could mean for cross-border hauliers, particularly those relying on the Dover-Calais crossing.

Earlier this month, the Department for Transport staged a trial run of traffic handling processes to test how any potential disruption may be managed. Featuring a convoy of 89 lorries, the DfT announced that the trial at the disused Manston Airport site went well with traffic running smoothly.

However, the operation has drawn criticism from local politicians and national haulage associations for a variety of different reasons.

Local reaction

Kent County Council led the criticisms by noting that it’s important to work out just how quickly drivers will be able to get out of the airfield and how quickly they’ll get to reach certain points along their journeys. The relatively small number of lorries involved in this test was picked up on and echoed by the MP for Dover, Charlie Elphicke.

“We’ve got to remember 10,000 lorries visit the Channels ports every single day,” he said, “so a test with less than 100 is not even a drop in the ocean.” This leads to concerns over whether any heavy congestion in the future will be as easily manageable as this one-off trial run.

Reactions from elsewhere

Over at the Road Haulage Association, chief executive Richard Burnett commented on the “limited scope” of the trial, calling for the runs to be repeated to effectively stress-test numerous aspects of the mammoth management tasks that thousands of lorries would present.

“It’s too little too late,” he noted, expressing frustration at the timing of such a test, continuing: “this process should have started 9 months ago.”

Reaction from outside the UK has been even less favourable, with the president of the Irish Road Haulage Association, Verona Murphy, calling the trial “totally and utterly bonkers”, adding that it wouldn’t help matters in resolving the UK’s eventual relationship with the EU.

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