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NAO warns 'considerable' infrastructure work needed at UK border

operation stack cropped (1)

‘‘Considerable’’ infrastructure planning work is needed to avoid travel chaos at the border after Brexit, the public spending watchdog has warned.

The Department for Transport’s (DfT) post-Brexit solution to control traffic on the M20 to Dover, which is called Project Brock, has ‘‘very little room for delay’’ and carries ‘‘significant risk’’, a National Audit Office report said.  

It is expected to replace Operation Stack, which currently controls the flow of traffic when ferries or rail services are delayed, when the UK leaves the European Union in March next year.

The report said: “At the border, the department had agreed the scope of, and preferred option for, a temporary solution to manage lorry queueing and traffic flow at Dover, which it has called ‘Project Brock’. 

“Highways England has reported that the project has very little room for delay and that it carries significant risks. 

“Although a contract to undertake work was awarded on 11 May 2018 and detailed engineering plans have been drawn up, operational plans to put it in place were still being developed.”

DfT and Highways England insisted the plans would be ready by March 2019. 

NAO comptroller and auditor general Amyas Morse said: “The Department for Transport has taken on a significant challenge and has a large portfolio of work that it needs to deliver for EU Exit. This report is intended as an objective document of record about its progress towards a smooth and orderly exit.

“I am obliged to point out gaps in the Department’s approach and risks to its progress. But I do so while recognising that these are not normal times for the Department or for the government as a whole and acknowledging that it has already achieved a great deal in its preparations for EU Exit.”

It was recommended that the department develops a ‘‘much clearer’’ integrated plan for Brexit, with more coherence and precision in assessing and reporting progress to the Department for Exiting the EU. 

DfT expects to spend about £96.3M on preparing to exit the EU, of which £75.8M will be funded by the treasury.

A DfT spokesperson said: “The NAO concludes that the Department is making a determined effort to ensure the UK transport system is fully prepared for EU Exit and acknowledges that the Department has already achieved a great deal.

“We have prioritised preparation for EU exit and Royal Assent of the Haulage Permits & Trailer Registration Bill will be a significant step in this process.

“Our work is part of wider government preparations to ensure the UK can deliver a smooth and orderly Brexit, as we move from our current membership of the EU to our future partnership.”

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