Chris Grayling slammed for ‘calamitous’ £60,000 no-deal Brexit lorry park test
A major test of no-deal Brexit planning headed by Chris Grayling was today branded "calamitous" after the Government spent £60,000 but failed to attract enough participants.
The Department for Transport commissioned dozens of lorries to arrive at Manston airfield this morning and drive to Dover to simulate a contingency plan for disruption at the ports.
But the fake traffic jam came under fire after fewer than 90 lorries turned up for the test - fewer than the Government had hoped for.
Ministers plan to use the airfield as a lorry park to prevent traffic jams along the A256 if extra customs checks imposed as a result of a no-deal Brexit create tailbacks along the route.
Last week the Department for Transport and Kent County Council said they hoped to attract 100-150 hauliers for the test.
But today the Government confirmed it had only managed to find 89 vehicles – including a bin lorry from the local council and two removal vans.
Officials confirmed they had stumped up £550 for each vehicle, bringing the cost for the taxpayer-funded convoy to £48,950.
Other costs including on-site security and transactional costs brought the total cost of the test to £60,000, the department confirmed.
Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald blasted beleaguered Transport Secretary Mr Grayling for his “costly incompetence”.
“Each day brings yet more news of Chris Grayling’s costly incompetence at the Department for Transport," he fumed.
"It is impossible to have faith in this calamitous Transport Secretary to manage Britain’s transport networks, let alone prepare for Brexit.
“Were the Prime Minister not so weak Grayling would have been sacked long ago. It’s to the country’s detriment that he remains in post.”
One lorry driver in the convoy told the BBC the exercise had been a “waste of time”.
He said: “Someone had to do it didn’t they, really? But at the end of the day what will be, will be.”
'CHAOTIC MOMENT IN OUR HISTORY'
The exercise is the latest gaffe from the department, which came under fire earlier this month after it confirmed it had handed a £14m ferry contract to a small start-up firm who didn’t own any vessels.
Labour MP Ian Murray, who backs the Best for Britain campaign for a second Brexit vote, hit out at the “ludicrous” test.
"It beggars belief that we are spending tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money to create a traffic jam for a dead-end Brexit.
"Future generations will look back at this chaotic moment in our history with bewilderment.
"It demonstrates the utter nonsense that is Brexit, and proves why there must be a people's vote so that we can ask the public if they really want to go ahead with this catastrophic move."
He added: “This is a scandalous waste of nearly £49,000 of taxpayer’s money. It’s utterly disgusting.”
'GOING AS PLANNED'
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister this morning said the exercise was proceeding “as intended”.
“I haven’t had an update on it, beyond that everything was going as planned,” they said.
“I think a significant number of lorries were taking part and the exercise was proceeding as intended.”