Dozens of trucks took part in a government exercise Monday for coping with possible Channel gridlock caused by a no-deal Brexit, assembling on an abandoned airport runway that could be turned into a giant lorry park.
But haulage groups labelled the exercise "too little too late", while a local MP said it was "too complex" and would create "enormous confusion" for lorry drivers.
Nearly 100 lorries descended on Manston airfield in southeast England, which has been identified as a possible holding facility under contingency plans for leaving the European Union without a divorce agreement on March 29.
As part of the test, the vehicles then made two trips in convoy to and from the port of Dover -- a 20-mile (32-kilometre) journey -- along a route far less used by trucks than the main highway from London.
"It's too little too late -- this process should have started nine months ago. At this late stage it looks like window dressing," he added.
The RHA are among the industry bodies advising the transport ministry and local officials ahead of Brexit, and helped attract truckers to the one-day trial.
A ministry spokeswoman said 89 trucks participated at a cost of 550 pounds (USD 700/610 euros) per driver, or 48,950 pounds for the whole fleet.
"We do not want or expect a no-deal scenario and continue to work hard to deliver a deal with the EU.
"However, it is the duty of a responsible government to continue to prepare for all eventualities and contingencies, including a possible no deal," she said.
He said the former airfield is "ready" but Monday's tests would show "if any changes need to be made" along the route to Dover.
In invitation letters to hauliers, the ministry said the trial was aimed at ensuring "there is an effective plan in place should there be any disruption once the UK has left the EU".
The use of the airfield as a holding facility "is one of the traffic management measures" in draft plans to "alleviate congestion" in the event of any border disruption, according to the letters.
They also stated that officials would be using the exercise to "establish the safest optimum release rate of HGVs (Heavy Goods Vehicles) from the airfield to Dover".
Rowe said the feedback so far "has been good".
But Charlie Elphicke, the local MP for Dover, criticised the plan as "too complex" and likely to cause "enormous confusion" for lorry drivers.
It currently takes only two minutes for a truck to complete the formalities.
A mere two-minute addition would cause traffic jams of more than 17 miles (27 kilometres) in Dover and similar chaos in Calais and Dunkirk, the Port of Dover warned on its website.
The Freight Transport Association, which also liaised with hauliers for the trial, said avoiding a no-deal Brexit was of "vital importance".
"Using Manston can never be a 'good' arrangement, just a part of the least worst option in the event of the ongoing disruption at Dover that no deal...would cause," it added in a statement.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)