U.K. Orders Urgent Brexit Traffic Plans as Border Tailbacks Loom

  • Transport secretary wants ‘interim’ solution by Brexit day one
  • Grayling hopes park could be ‘permanent solution’ to backlogs

Lorries wait at a checkpoint as they exit the Port of Dover on Aug. 1, 2017. 

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

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The U.K. ordered its highways agency to brace for huge truck backlogs on day one of Brexit as customs changes threaten disruption in the county that sees a huge proportion of freight traffic to and from Europe.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling gave Highways England the task of devising urgent solutions to prevent tailbacks of trucks through Kent from the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel, which together form the gateway for about a third of the country’s trade by value on thousands of vehicles every day. 

Authorities could deploy “steel barriers to movable barrier systems” along the M20 motorway, Grayling suggested in a statement to Parliament, which also rebooted plans for a spillover truck parking lot that won’t be ready by the time the U.K. leaves the bloc in March 2019.

As many as 10,000 trucks per day carrying German car parts and Spanish lettuces, as well as U.K. exports to Europe, pass through Dover, which has warned of 17-mile (27-kilometer) lines of vehicles on both sides of the English Channel if its average customs clearing is slowed by just two minutes. 

Disruption to ferries and vehicle-carrying trains due to weather or migrants in Calais seeking to reach the U.K. has repeatedly forced authorities to implement an emergency procedure dubbed Operation Stack, which temporarily re-purposes highway lanes to accommodate hundreds of waiting trucks.

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