Kent CC Q and A: Life before and after Brexit

Dominic Browne

Earlier this month Highways reported on local concerns regarding post-Brexit contingency plans for channel crossings in Kent, particularly around the impact to traffic on the M20.

After speaking to various insiders, Highways received the following responses from a Kent spokesman, which have been combined with previous commitment and statements made by the authority.       

What plans are you drawing up with Highways England?

A spokesman said: 'Kent CC continues to work on plans with Highways England and the Department for Transport to seek ways to best mitigate the effect of any disruption to cross channel traffic. It is Kent CC’s long-term objective to avoid disruption to the Kent highway and to keeping the whole of the strategic network open at all times.'

Kent CC is committed to 'pro-actively work with the Government in developing and co-ordinating its implementation planning for Brexit, including supporting the Kent Resilience Forum work on scenario and contingency planning' 

It has also said: 'KCC will work with Highways England and the Department of Transport on their proposals for an interim traffic management solution and a permanent solution to Operation Stack which maintains free flowing access to the Queen’s highways.'

How far could any disruption from the M20 spread throughout Kent county and how is the council preparing for it?

A spokesman said: 'The prolonged disruption in 2015 is well-documented and in Kent, we all know the massive impact of Operation Stack and the closure of the M20 caused to the Kent economy. We need to make sure that, working with central Government and with the help and co-operation of the police and our other partners, that our respective contingency plans serve to do everything possible to keep open the main strategic routes across the county if there is disruption in the future.

'KCC is actively engaging through appropriate national, regional, and local partnership channels and monitoring the plans and assumptions closely to consider the impact for the county.

'KCC has a strategic leadership role on behalf of the residents and businesses of Kent and will stand up for Kent’s interests.'

Further details of our position are here.

What are the responsibilities of the council under the new Operation Brock?

A spokesman said: 'None - beyond its usual welfare responsibilities for those affected by any extended delays to their journey.'

Is the Government providing any funding for Kent to help support it with this potential impact of Brexit?

'Kent CC is working with Government, the Department for Transport and Highways England at several levels to help ensure contingencies are properly funded,' a spokesman said.

The county council has previously said it will 'seek the Government’s commitment to fully meet the direct costs of new burdens and demand pressures because of Kent’s exceptional position, through a short-term direct grant and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund'.

Is Kent holding meetings with haulage and freight groups to discuss plans?

'Kent CC has held regular meetings with haulage and freight groups for many years and continues to do so.'

What is Kent’s preferred option for post Brexit preparations/contingency plans?

KCC's position statement is here

The position statement reads: 'Close co-operation will be needed along with sufficient funding and manpower to maintain free flowing traffic as far as is possible. Consideration should also be given to a system of effectively holding freight at its point of origin or specific hubs when port capacity is limited. The Government should engage with port operators and the logistics sector to develop an integrated strategy and commit the necessary infrastructure investment. It should also consider investing in Kent’s wider port infrastructure, including Sheerness and Ramsgate to provide additional resilience to the County’s infrastructure.'

It also calls on the Government to 'strengthen its bilateral engagement' with the relevant continental national governments 'to agree the practical arrangements and necessary investment'.

Do you feel Kent and Highways England and Govt are all in agreement over how best to prepare for M20 issues?

'Kent CC, DfT and Highways England continue to work closely on maintaining free flowing access and a range of other issues such as the Lower Thames Crossing and other improvements to the strategic road network in the county.'

How likely do you feel it is that we have significant problems on M20 after Brexit?

A spokesman said: 'As demonstrated in 2015, delays to traffic can occur as a result of disruption to the cross-channel routes. Should disruption occur post-Brexit then it is of course likely we will see delays. Any plan to hold HGVs on the M20 while also allowing non-port traffic to continue to travel in both directions will significantly reduce capacity on the M20.

'It is therefore essential that any solution enables the M20 motorway to remain open in both directions at all times with sufficient capacity to allow effective flow on the Strategic Road Network, maintain freight fluidity through the Channel ports, and create no leakage of traffic onto an already stressed local road network.'

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