Criticism mounts on Kent County Council and Highways England over Brexit road strategy
The decision not to assess how Kent’s roads will cope with Brexit “beggars belief” and is “very worrying” according to the logistics industry and opposition parties.
Freedom of information requests by Kent Live reveal neither of the authorities responsible for Kent’s roads have carried out any forecasting or impact assessments for the affect of Brexit on the county’s roads.
“We’re staggered that neither Highways England or Kent County Council have conducted assessments on how Brexit could impact Kent’s road network,” the Road Haulage Association’s policy director, Duncan Buchanan said.
He said it was clear stricter customs arrangements will take longer to process lorries, and warned “any delay will cause backlogs on the roads”.
He went on to say: “it beggars belief that the authorities don’t want to assess the effect this could have on road networks, businesses and the lives of local people. It’s even more astounding given the recent cancellation of the lorry holding area by the Department for Transport”.
The Freight Transport Association’s policy manager for the south east, Heidi Skinner, said: “The news that the agencies responsible for monitoring roads in the county have not done any sort of forecasting or assessments for the impact of Brexit is concerning for those of us responsible for the nation’s supply chain.”
“No one wants to see lorries idling at the side of the road, but without proper planning for delays and cancellations at the ports, or hold ups caused by border checks, they could be a reality for Kent residents.
“The FTA urges Kent County Council and Highways England to provide the clarification which logistics operators need in order to keep Britain trading efficiently.”
Opposition leader at County Hall, Liberal Democrat Rob Bird, criticised the Conservatives’ approach: “It is beyond belief that neither the Government nor Kent County Council have assessed the potential impact of Brexit on Kent’s roads.
“Some 10,000 lorries pass through Dover and the Channel Tunnel each day.
“The port authorities have made it clear that just a couple of minutes delay caused by border checks could result in queues of lorries half way across the county. It would cripple the ‘just in time’ Cross-Channel freight market and have major consequences for the import of perishable goods.”
Cllr Peter Wallace of Dover Council said: “I am concerned that Kent County Council is not carrying out their own impact assessments until Highways England have finished theirs – and yet Highways England has said they aren’t conducting any.
“That is very worrying.
“Is anyone at Kent County Council in control or do they just have their fingers crossed? I’m not able to see from their responses but I can see there is no leadership on this from Paul Carter.”
Dover’s MP Charlie Elphicke did not raise concerns over the lack of assessments, but instead called for work on the roads to start regardless. He said: “We need the Government to get on with it. Major road upgrades in Kent are long overdue.”
He said dualling the A2 and extra lorry parking “should have been done years ago. That’s why I have been consistently making the case for us to just get on with it.”
Kent Live approached Kent County Council for a response but none was provided.
A Kent Live freedom of information request revealed “Kent County Council has not undertaken, commissioned, or had access to, an assessment of Kent’s roads system’s capability to cope with changes to traffic caused by policy changes caused by Brexit.”
When asked why this work had not been done and if it would be done a council spokesman said they are waiting for the results of Highways England’s assessments.
A freedom of information request to Highways England showed no such work had been done, and their spokesman said they did not know why the council thought assessments were coming.
When asked if the highways authority would conduct any assessments the spokesman said a £15bn programme of works is being undertaken by the highway authority to provide scalable improvements to Britain’s road system, including the M20.
The spokesman did not say if this was connected to Brexit.
They reiterated that Highways England has not carried out any Brexit impact assessments and had not told the council that it would.
Another freedom of information request also revealed that Kent County Council has done some kind of forecasting for the impact of Brexit on transport in the county, but the authority would not respond to questions about what this work included.