No-deal Brexit traffic diversions set to cost £30,000 a day in bid to spare Portsmouth gridlock

STOPPING lorries bound for the port causing gridlock in Portsmouth after a no-deal Brexit will cost £30,000 a day.

Tuesday, 12th March 2019, 7:35 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th March 2019, 8:40 am
Land at Tipner West, in Portsmouth, where preparations are being made in the event of a no-deal Brexit in case it affects Portsmouth port. Picture: Portsmouth City Council

Authorities have been working for eight months to devise a plan that could stop lorries backing up on the M275 if extra checks are brought in at the border.

Portsmouth City Council and Hampshire County Council have allocated a combined £4m to set up an elaborate system of checkpoints.

The Department for Transport said Dover port presented a problem not replicated in other areas, including Portsmouth.

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Land at Tipner West, in Portsmouth, where preparations are being made in the event of a no-deal Brexit in case it affects Portsmouth port. Picture: Portsmouth City Council

But the government department has been accused by council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson of failing to take into account local traffic using the M275.

He said: ‘The worst bit of it is that they thought there’s not going to be a problem because they’d done traffic modelling going into the port but they hadn’t presumed there isn’t any other traffic going into the port.

‘They presumed there’s no other traffic going into the city, going on the naval base, therefore they couldn’t see what the problem is with lorries queuing to go into the port.

‘It just beggars belief that people are making decisions based on this incredible lack of knowledge – why on earth didn’t they come and talk to somebody who knows Portsmouth?’

It comes as MPs are set to vote on the prime minister’s EU Withdrawal Agreement during a session in the House of Commons tomorrow.

A holding area is being set up on the A31 between Winchester and Alresford to catch any hauliers heading for Portsmouth with diversion signs being rolled out soon.

From midday on March 26 they will be held there with initial checks carried out before being given a pass and allowed to progress to the port. If their ferry sailing is soon then they will be allowed to go on to the port.

Other hauliers will be held for under an hour at a newly-resurfaced piece of land at Tipner West off the M275.

Security checks would still be carried out at the port before any embarkation.

Running costs of the two checkpoints, together with one at Rudmore Roundabout, will cost about £30,000 a day – all to avoid 30-60 lorries backing on to the motorway.

Officials at the Hampshire Local Resilience Forum have been forced to carry out infrastructure work without full Department for Transport funding over fears congestion could hinder 999 services’ response times.

Just last summer there was widespread disruption after the cancellation of a Wightlink sailing. While an alternative sailing went three to four hours later, the roads were not clear until around 10pm.

Pam Turton, assistant director for transport at the city council, said employers should consider allowing their employees to work from home to alleviate traffic.

She said: ‘Certainly at PCC we’re encouraging staff to work from home or alternative locations where they can, and be flexible about start and finish times to mitigate the general traffic that’s going to be using the network so that everyone has the best possible chance.’

But Ms Turton added: ‘We’re dealing with an awful lot of unknowns going into this. It’s important to note that none of these elements is working in isolation.’

Port director Mike Sellers said the council-owned port had been planning for 12 months for ‘whatever the outcome is’ on Brexit in a bid to ensure ‘goods coming in can move fairly freely’.

A Department for Transport said: ‘DfT and Highways England are in contact with local resilience forums to help them prepare for any potential impacts of the UK’s exit from the EU.

‘Our priority remains securing a deal with the EU but as a responsible government we continue to plan for all scenarios.’