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Trial run of lorries parking at Manston airport in test of post-Brexit travel plans if there is disruption at the Port of Dover

A trial of a government plan to use the former Manston airport site to hold lorries in the event of disruption at the channel ports will be held on Monday, it has emerged.

The Department for Transport is to stage a test of its plans to avoid post-Brexit travel problems using between 100 and 150 HGVs.

One trial run will take place in the morning at 8am and a second later at 11am.

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The former Manston airport site will be used as a lorry park if Operation Brock - the new version of Operation Stack - is brought into force
The former Manston airport site will be used as a lorry park if Operation Brock - the new version of Operation Stack - is brought into force

There have been widespread concerns about the use of Manston, with fears that it could take several hours for lorries held at the site to leave and will cause congestion elsewhere in the area.

The DfT however believes the use of Manston will be crucial in the event of disruption.

It would come into play once capacity is reached to hold HGVs on the M20 under its so-called Operation Brock plan, a modification of Operation Stack.

According to a letter to Cliffsend Parish Council, the trial involve HGVs assembling at Manston at 8am and then follow the route to Dover. A second run will take place at 11am.

Parish council chairman Cllr Andrew Blaydes said: “The trial is essential and we have always said it needs to be tested to show the impact on local traffic.

"The first run at 8am will run straight into the school-run traffic.”

The DfT alerted the council last night.

In an email it said: “The use of Manston airfield as an HGV holding facility is one of the traffic management measures as part of the current draft plan to alleviate congestion on Kent roads in the event of any disruption at the border.

"This also now includes if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, should there be any disruption.

“To ensure the route from Manston to Dover can safely withstand an increase in HGV traffic, we are conducting a live test on Monday, January 7.

Lorries will be directed to the former Manston airport site on Monday
Lorries will be directed to the former Manston airport site on Monday

"This test will establish the safest optimum release rate of HGVs from Manston airfield along the proposed route on the A256 to the Port of Dover, and how any impacts could be managed.

“The DfT has sought participation of up to 150 HGVs from hauliers, via contacts through the Road Haulage Association and Freight Transport Association, to carry out the test.

"The intention is for two test runs to take place, one in the morning peak time departing around 8am, and another departing at around 11am, to assess times taken from Manston airfield along the A256, and from the bottom of the A256 to the Eastern Docks roundabout at the entry of the port.

“The A299 from Minster Roundabout to Cliffsend Roundabout will have lane one coned off to allow HGVs to safely join the Thanet Way.

"They will then travel South along A299 and A256 to a temporary holding point before joining the A2 to the Eastern Docks Roundabout.

Operation Stack brought Kent roads to a standstill when it was in force over the summer of 2015
Operation Stack brought Kent roads to a standstill when it was in force over the summer of 2015

"Staff will be positioned along the whole route throughout the trial to monitor flows. If required at any time, flows from Manston can be halted as needed.”

Critics of the plan to use Manston as an emergency lorry park believe that access to and from the site will prove problematic.

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale recently urged transport ministers to reconsider the use of the site.

Operation Brock - the updated version of Operation Stack - contains different phases for dealing with a backlog of HGVs.

The use of Manston would be triggered once a contra-flow system on the M20 is used up.

HGVs would be diverted from the Port of Dover to Manston and the A256. The plan outlines capacity at Manston for up to 6,000 lorries.

A DfT spokesperson said: “We do not want or expect a no deal scenario and continue to work hard to deliver a deal with the EU.

"However, it is the duty of a responsible Government to continue to prepare for all eventualities and contingencies, including a possible no deal.

“We will be testing part of Operation Brock to ensure that, if it needs to be implemented, the system is fully functional.”

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