PORTSMOUTH’S political top brass have made a last-ditch plea to Westminster to stop travel ‘chaos’ at a port from spilling out onto roads if Britain crashes out of Europe without a deal.
Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson has begged the government to heed warnings that if more isn’t done to help prepare the city, traffic will clog roads as customs queues build at Portsmouth International Port amid tightened border security measures.
In a letter to housing, communities and local government secretary, James Brokenshire, the Portsmouth City Council leader urged officials from the Department of Transport (DfT) to visit the island for themselves.
It came as the council chief accused London-based transport boffins of ignoring the city’s own traffic studies which showed lorry queues into the port could spill out onto the M275, creating gridlock in the city and clogging motorways across Hampshire.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘We are less than three weeks away from Brexit day and the discussions we have had with the DfT have shown a lack of understanding about the issues facing the port of Portsmouth from within the DfT and a reluctance on their part to engage.
‘An enormous advantage for the port of Portsmouth is its very close proximity to the motorway network.
‘With the prospect of extra checks on freight and additional port traffic, this advantage becomes a major disadvantage as the distance between the freight check in gate and motorway is 13 lorry lengths.
‘The 14th lorry starts on the motorway; the knock-on effect quickly brings traffic to a standstill as we are an island and brings gridlock.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson demanded a team from the DfT visit Portsmouth urgently to hear the city’s concerns.
The civic chief’s request came as work began to prepare a three-mile stretch of the A31, between Winchester and Alresford, to stack queuing freight lorries in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The project, led by Hampshire County Council, was requested by the county’s local resilience forum, which is concerned the region will grind to a halt if action wasn’t taken.
The construction will provide the extra space that may be needed for stacking lorries waiting to use the Portsmouth’s port if arrangements for freight traffic leaving and entering the EU is not finalised by the time the UK leaves the EU on March 29.
Councillor Rob Humby, the county’s transport boss, said said the development was to prevent ‘significant delays’ blight the area’s roads.
‘I do appreciate local residents have had very little notice of these works, for which we apologise,’ he said. ‘Unfortunately, due to the tight timescales and the level of uncertainty around what may happen nationally, we must make sure that Hampshire is prepared.’
He added the decision ‘wasn’t taken lightly’ and that after ‘careful consideration’ the A31 was assessed as the safest option.