Brexit: Government warned of ‘complete gridlock’ in Kent unless more lorry parks built

Exclusive: Ministers urged to fulfil promise of new facilities, as desperate drivers forced to ‘s*** in bushes’

Tory MP reveals he stood in human excrement during Brexit lorry trip

Boris Johnson’s government has been urged to start building more lorry parks near Dover or face traffic gridlock around the port, as post-Brexit customs checks continue to cause disruption.

Desperate drivers caught in four-hour queues near Dover have been forced to “s*** in the bushes” and throw bottles of urine out of the window, The Independent has been told.

Logistics chiefs and local politicians have warned that road congestion in Kent will get worse when further checks come into force in July and September.

The government has asked National Highways to identify new sites for lorries. But ministers have not yet committed to building an extra park – despite a promise by chancellor Rishi Sunak in the autumn Budget to spend £32.5m on driver facilities.

“There are simply not enough lorry parking spaces,” said Rod McKenzie, director of policy at the Road Haulage Association (RHA). “The facilities for drivers are inadequate. The government has promised in principle to do more – but we lack specifics.”

The RHA official added: “There’s precious little room in Dover itself. So more infrastructure is needed near the port for checks. There’s a real urgency about this problem – it’s not something that can be ignored much longer.”

Edwin Atema, from the Dutch FNV union, which works hauliers from across the EU, told The Independent that drivers are increasingly angry about the time spent waiting in queues at Dover since full customs controls came into force in January.

“There is a lot of time not working, just waiting,” Mr Atema said. “Drivers are suffering from the lack of proper facilities. They have to s*** in the bushes. I’ve been there. You can see it, you can smell it. It’s 2022 and this should not be happening.”

Drivers have said they have been stuck in queues of up to 15km (9 miles) – visible from satellites – along the A20 near Dover since the start of January, when full customs controls came into effect.

Chris Precious, an independent councillor on Kent town council, said bottles of urine and plastic bags of “human excrement” are being thrown into people’s gardens and along the A20 roadside by desperate drivers. “It’s left for residents to clear up.”

Calling for a new lorry park near Dover and a bypass for freight traffic, the councillor added: “If nothing is done soon it will get much worse. We will have gridlock. It’s impossible for the [A20] to cope with this.”

Conservative MP Huw Merriman, chair of the transport select committee, revealed last month that he accidentally stood in “human excrement” during a stop at a lay-by during a visit to inspect facilities at Dover.

Roads minister Baroness Vere said last month that she had asked National Highways to “look at any and all landholdings to see if we can find any new places”.

In December ministers hailed the opening of Ashford International Truckstop – almost 25 miles away from Dover – where up to 660 drivers can park and use the new facilities.

The site sits next to the government’s “inland border facility”, where hauliers are sent for post-Brexit paperwork checks. Some drivers have been forced to wait for 24 hours for red tape issues to be resolved.

A much smaller site, made up of just 96 parking spaces, is being created just outside of Dover to allow officials to inspect trucks when additional agri-food checks come into force in July.

However, the RHA fears it will not be enough to ease the congestion around Dover in the months ahead. Mr McKenzie said it would take “the best part of year” to create a major new site.

The haulage policy chief added: “The struggle to retain drivers is made more difficult by the shortage of infrastructure, the shortage of spaces to park, spaces to wash and spaces to go to the loo. We’re just asking for decent facilities of the type found in Europe.”

Mr McKenzie has said regular delays of three or four hours could be expected on busy days in the months ahead.

There is also mounting concern about the number of lorry drivers forced to sleep in lay-bys because of the long delays – with Kent County Council warning of “safety implications” and disruption to residents.

Adrian Jones, Unite’s national officer for road transport, said: “If drivers are going to be held up more regularly, there needs to be appropriate infrastructure and facilities available. It isn’t good enough at the moment.”

Last month the chief of Dover port Doug Bannister warned that the UK has just months to avoid further disruption when new EU biometric checks come into force in September.

As it stands, all car drivers would have to exit their vehicles to undergo biometric checks at the border, which could cause additional delays at the Kent port.

A government spokesperson said: “We are spending £32.5m to improve lorry parking facilities across the country, and are working with industry on a detailed plan to help drivers feel rested and recharged to carry out their vital work safely.”

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