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Transport secretary Grant Shapps says Brexit border traffic chaos fears proved unfounded

The transport minister says fears of disruption and delays around the Channel ports because of Brexit have proved unfounded.

The transport secretary Grant Shapps told the cross-party transport select committee today that he had seen little evidence of congestion or long queues of traffic, as many had predicted.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps
Transport secretary Grant Shapps

In an upbeat assessment of the traffic management systems in place, Mr Shapps said it was "miraculous" that goods were flowing "at near normal levels."

“You will have heard talk, including worst case scenario projections and mentioned many times in newspapers of queues of 20, 30, 40 miles, none of which we saw as a result of the end of the transition period.

“In terms of flow, I can tell you that the latest information is there are nearly 6,000 lorries a day, which is about 1,000 under where you might expect it to be at this time of year.”

Predictions of mammoth queues were widely reported last year after the government published its own report into a "reasonable worst case scenario", much of which depended on the outcome of Brexit negotiations.

And he claimed there was little evidence hauliers were arriving in Kent en route to ports without the necessary paperwork.

He said the number was small at about 3% of all HGVs.

“There has been very,very low levels of turn backs and the flow is where it might be expected to be.”

He said the only reports of delays was at the lorry park at Waterbrook, Ashford which was related to an issue to do with customs checks.

And he invited anyone who had evidence of congestion to contact him.

“I see no evidence that traffic is not flowing at all so if there are reports of congestion, I want to hear about it,” he added.

He also revealed information points to provide advice to hauliers ahead of Brexit were now being used to pre-test drivers for coronavirus.

He said: “We are using 39 of them to test drivers before they get to Kent in order to better manage the traffic flow. It is only temporary until the end of March.

“I don't anticipate it being renewed unless there was some other measure that we couldn’t run the risk of other countries requiring lateral flow checks and getting stuck while waiting for a test.”

He told MPs he did not rule out adding new sites to carry out tests on a temporary basis but figures showed 150,000 hauliers had been tested.

“By any measure it has been a pretty successful process,” he said.

How is Brexit going to affect Kent? For all the latest news, views and analysis visit our dedicated page here.

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