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Jeremy Corbyn says Manston airport lorry test was 'farce'

Jeremy Corbyn has lashed out at the government over what he said was a shambolic rehearsal of plans for the former Manston airport to be used as an emergency lorry park in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The Labour leader attacked the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling over the dry-run this morning which saw less than 90 lorries take part in a two-stage trial.

HGVs parked at Manston traveled to the Port of Dover to replicate a key stage of the government contingency plans if there is disruption at the channel ports caused by Brexit, codenamed Operation Brock.

Jeremy Corbyn attacks the Transport Secretary in Parliament

It is the latest in a string of bad headlines for the government over its post-Brexit planning, after it awarded a contract to run freight ferry services from Ramsgate to a company that does not own any ferries.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Corbyn said: "The Transport Secretary who has a PhD in incompetence has awarded a shipping contract to a company that doesn't have any ships and even today we see the farce of lorries being lined up to stage a fake traffic jam in Kent to pretend to the EU that we are ready for a no deal; a stunt that the Road Haulage Association has described as window dressing and one of the drivers has described as a complete waste of time.

"The government is fooling nobody - these shambolic preparations are too little and too late."

But there was criticism about the trial after far fewer lorries turned up to participate in the dry run and had been expected.

They included the Road Haulage Association which said the test was window dressing and had come nine months too late.

Lorries leaving Manston airport bound for Dover. Picture: Paul Amos
Lorries leaving Manston airport bound for Dover. Picture: Paul Amos

The Thanet North MP Sir Roger Gale also weighed in saying that it did not replicate what would be the reality of any diversions from Dover to Manston because it had been widely publicised beforehand and drivers had probably made alternative plans to avoid the convoy of lorries.

He said: "The Road Haulage Association has already described it as window dressing and I fear that is what it is.I am all in favour of having an exercise but lorries leaving on a pre-planned basis with the public knowing when it is going to happen is not by anyone's standing a real or sensible exercise - there has been a lot of warnings which is why people have used other routes instead of the roads the lorries were on. That is not a sensible exercise."

However in a statement the Department for Transport insisted that be test run had gone well and would prove useful in helping fine tune the emergency plan.

“We are completely satisfied with the numbers that took part in today’s trial, which exceeded what was required. The trial has gone well, and will provide a strong sample to help us understand the effect of potential traffic on this route.”

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