Portsmouth's port can't afford Brexit border check upgrades and needs £20m from Whitehall, transport boss warns

TRANSPORT ministers have been warned there will be ‘severe consequences’ if Whitehall doesn’t provide £20m to fund Brexit border upgrades for a port.

Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 11:59 am
Updated Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 1:21 pm

Mike Sellers, director of Portsmouth International Port, claimed the transport hub is under huge strain to prepare for Britain’s divorce with the EU.

The port is facing ‘challenging’ and ‘very tight timescales’ to implement the enhancements by July 2021 – a date Mr Sellers branded as ‘extremely ambitious’ and ‘highly unlikely’.

The ferry terminal will need to create new border checkpoints, which would require acquiring land ‘adjacent to the port’. Live animal compounds would also have to be constructed.

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Portsmouth International Port. Picture : Habibur Rahman

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In a report to Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet, Mr Sellers warned the upgrades could cost upwards of £20m – a sum which neither the port or local authority could afford.

A project to upgrade the M275 to prevent congestion from the port backing onto the motorway, known as Operation Transmission, would also need £3.8m from the government to ‘stand it up’.

Mr Sellers wrote: ‘Although we do not have an accurate cost estimate at this stage, we anticipate that this will be greater than £20m,

‘In the event that government funding is not provided for the necessary costs associated with the border operating model or Operation Transmission, the council is not in a position to provide the necessary funding, and the consequences would be very severe.’

The government has already announced £470m is being made available for critical border infrastructure, including customs and border control points.

The cash is being split, with £200m heading to ports and the remainder being offered to inland sites.

It’s hoped news about which cash bids had been successful will be announced soon.

Mr Sellers said Portsmouth would play a key part in relieving the expected strain predicted to hit Dover and hoped the site would be given a large chunk of cash to prepare it.

Among the additional work needed including modification to existing buildings and extension of freight gates for improved access to the M275.

But of ‘particular concern’ would be the need for ‘health checks’ for animal and plant products - which accounts to 30 to 50 per cent of the port’s freight.

‘This would have serious implications on the existing routes from France and Spain to Portsmouth and the viability of the port for our largest customer, Brittany Ferries,’ Mr Sellers added.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan demanded to know what support the Department for Transport (DfT) was being put in place for Portsmouth.

Transport minister Rachel Maclean said: ‘DfT officials are working closely with the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Resilience Forum (LRF) to ensure that the LRF has the required analysis and information to enable it to stand up an effective local traffic management plan (Operation Transmission), in case of traffic disruption post the EU Transition period.’

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