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Brexit road preparations costing Kent nearly £29m

Preparing Kent’s roads to deal with congestion and disruption that could be caused by Brexit is costing the taxpayer close to £29m.

The county council says the cost of work needed on Kent’s roads and other schemes - chiefly for holding thousands of lorries - has come in at £28.8m.

The money has come from the Department for Transport and includes £4.9m to make improvements to Manston airfield, which will be used as an emergency lorry park once capacity on the M20 is exhausted.

Manston Airport.Lorries lined up and leaving for Dover.Picture: Paul Amos. (6700229)
Manston Airport.Lorries lined up and leaving for Dover.Picture: Paul Amos. (6700229)

A report by transport chiefs says that work on Manston airfield site will enable it to accept “increased capacity” - something that is likely to cause concern.

KCC has said the impact of Brexit could mean having to park as many as 10,000 HGVs on “a routine basis” and that a no-deal scenario could result in months of disruption.

The bulk of the money is for resurfacing and strengthening key roads such as the A249, A256 and the A299.

That totals £15.7m - including money for those roads which could have more traffic on them when stretches of the M20 are closed.

HGVs leaving Manston this morning. Picture: Kent Police RPU/ @kentpoliceroads (6700148)
HGVs leaving Manston this morning. Picture: Kent Police RPU/ @kentpoliceroads (6700148)

Money has also been allocated for improving roads around the M26 - such as the A20 and A25 - which could see more traffic as part of Operation Brock, the strategy for dealing with congestion and delays should there be hold-ups at the channel ports.

A further £3.26m is being spent on signs and signals while £4.95m has been allocated for what are described as “traffic technology systems.”

Work on Manston will include preparing it to be able to increase the number of HGVs diverted there - but it is not clear by how much. There will be a new access to the site and more temporary hard-standing.

Taxpayers’ money is already being spent on the airfield site, with an estimated £5.7m being paid to the owners Stone Hill Park to maintain it should it be needed.

A report due to be considered by KCC’s Conservative cabinet says that some work has already been carried out but that other projects are not yet completed and "should be done" by the end of March and the Brexit deadline.

Cllr Mike Whiting
Cllr Mike Whiting

Cllr Mike Whiting, KCC cabinet member for highways, said:“My big aim in all of this is to ensure that whatever Brexit throws at Kent, we keep our roads open for residents, open for business and open for tourists to come and visit.

"This is planning for the worse in a sense; hopefully we will never need to use this plan.

“We have worked very hard to look at the effects might be from Brexit on Kent’s roads and we have made a case to the government for extra funding to ensure they are up to the standard they need to be to meet any extra demand. We have had confirmation that the money is available for us to spend.”

As well as resurfacing key routes, the council was planning other improvements, including adding yellow box junctions in key areas.

Some 300 gulleys would be cleared to limit the prospects of flooding on roads that would be diversion routes.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “It is the duty of a responsible government to plan for all eventualities and the deal the Government has agreed with the EU would address concerns about border disruption at the end of March. We are working closely with stakeholders in Kent to ensure that in the event of a no-deal, both local traffic and freight can continue to flow.”

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