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Convoy of lorries joins no-deal Brexit test at disused airfield

Nearly 100 lorries arrived at Manston Airport near Ramsgate in Kent early on Monday morning to line up along the runway before driving towards Dover.

Lorries parked in a queue on the runway at the former Manston Airport in Kent (Victoria Jones/PA)
Lorries parked in a queue on the runway at the former Manston Airport in Kent (Victoria Jones/PA)

A large convoy of lorries has descended on a disused airfield as the Government carries out a major test of its plans for UK border disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Nearly 100 lorries arrived at Manston Airport near Ramsgate in Kent early on Monday morning to line up along the runway before driving along the A256 towards Dover.

The trial, called Operation Brock, is testing out the site as a mass HGV holding bay to ease congestion on roads to Channel ports.

Road signs were erected on Sunday night directing drivers to the test.

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Lorries parked in a queue on the runway at the former Manston Airport (Victoria Jones/PA)

Lorries from regional and national haulage companies – with Eddie Stobart leading the pack – started to arrive at the airfield from around 7am on Monday to form a queue along the runway.The drivers congregated in a large group before being directed by officials from the Department for Transport (DfT), Kent County Council and police officers.

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Signs on the runway ahead of the test at Manston Airport (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The first practice run began in rush-hour shortly after 8am, with four convoys leaving at intervals between 8.13am and 8.39am.

The first of the convoys arrived in Dover at 8.52am.

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Lorries taking part in the trial begin to arrive at the eastern roundabout of the Port of Dover in Kent, following their journey from the former Manston Airport site (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Up to 150 lorries were initially anticipated to take part. So far 89 have been involved, the DfT confirmed after the first test on Monday morning.

The plans emerged last week after the DfT and council sent letters to hauliers explaining this was to “establish the safest optimum release rate of HGVs”.

The 20-mile journey takes around half an hour depending on traffic.

A second test is expected to take place at 11am.

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Lorries begin to line up during the trial at the former Manston Airport in Kent (Victoria Jones/PA)

A DfT spokeswoman 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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Lorries line up during a trial at the former Manston Airport site in Kent (Victoria Jones/PA)

Congestion at the Channel ports caused by the reintroduction of customs checks on goods has been one of the most commonly cited negative effects of a no-deal withdrawal from the EU at the end of March.

Also known as Kent International Airport, the site closed in 2014 after owners were unable to find a buyer.

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