'Horrendous' queues as truckers wait for Brexit paperwork clearance

Truckers have been left queuing for hours at a new Brexit lorry park as they wait for border paperwork to be cleared. Transport chiefs say a photo showing a long line of hauliers at the Waterbrook Park facility in Ashford proves the government “isn’t fully prepared” for disruption in Kent.

Truckers queuing at the Waterbrook customs site yesterday. Picture: @RHARodMcKenzie Truckers queuing at the Waterbrook customs site yesterday. Picture: @RHARodMcKenzie

The site – which is set to be used until the end of February – opened on January 1 and has been getting busier in recent days at the end of the Christmas lull. HMRC is currently carrying out customs checks on the plot while construction continues on a neighbouring 66-acre facility.

On Twitter, Rod McKenzie, director of policy and public affairs at the Road Haulage Association (RHA), said drivers had been queuing for up to eight hours yesterday to get their border paperwork signed off, describing the situation as “shocking”.

Spokesman Paul Mummery agreed, saying the photo shows the “the horrible truth” of delays facing hauliers. “What we are seeing in Ashford is horrendous,” he said.

Lorries on the 'McDonald's roundabout' at the entrance to Waterbrook Park this afternoon. Picture: AJ Services Lorries on the ‘McDonald’s roundabout’ at the entrance to Waterbrook Park this afternoon. Picture: AJ ServicesThe Waterbrook Park facility opened on January 1. Picture: Esprit Drone Services The Waterbrook Park facility opened on January 1. Picture: Esprit Drone Services

“The Covid testing hasn’t helped as it has added more time to the hauliers’ journey, but this isn’t just about Covid – this is about the government not getting its act together.

“We import more than we export and we are already hearing that firms on the continent are looking at the queues in Kent and saying that it is just not worth their while coming to the UK. “They can’t afford to have trucks getting stuck for days.”

Mr Mummery says the RHA is urging the government to take action. “We were never going to see the full extent of the government’s lack of preparedness at the start of the year,” he said.

Waterbrook is being used while contractors finish the nearby Sevington lorry park. Picture: Barry Goodwin Waterbrook is being used while contractors finish the nearby Sevington lorry park. Picture: Barry Goodwin

“It was always going to be in the second or third week of January when more trucks are rolling, as we are seeing now. “Prior to the end of the transition period, there were no delays apart from the start of Covid testing just before Christmas.

“But this photo shows the government isn’t fully prepared.”

Truckers are receiving Covid-19 tests on part of the Sevington facility. Picture: Esprit Drone Services Truckers are receiving Covid-19 tests on part of the Sevington facility.

Picture: Esprit Drone Services

In a statement, HMRC said it has set up five inland border facilities across the country – Waterbrook, Ebbsfleet, North Weald (Essex), Birmingham Airport and Warrington. It says hauliers may choose to visit whichever site is most convenient for them. A spokesman added: “Drivers are encouraged to pre-book their space at an inland border facility by using our online service, which will allow them to see how busy each site is in advance so that they can avoid delays.

Where Sevington's Brexit lorry park is being built; the neighbouring Waterbrook Park site is currently being used for HMRC checks Where Sevington’s Brexit lorry park is being built; the neighbouring Waterbrook Park site is currently being used for HMRC checks

“With a majority of drivers using Ashford Waterbrook, this has led to longer waiting times and we have advised drivers to expect delays.

“Current site data has shown the average wait time is 65 minutes. “However, any driver concerned about the wait time may choose to visit an alternative location.” Ashford MP Damian Green said there are now talks between Border Force and customs clearance officials to avoid queues of trucks.

Just two of the lorries in Mersham last week after truckers were given the wrong postcode.
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pPicture: Stewart Ross Just two of the lorries in Mersham last week after truckers were given the wrong postcode. Picture: Stewart Ross

Although the Sevington Inland Border Facility next to the Waterbrook site is not yet fully operational, truckers have been receiving Covid-19 tests on the land since last Monday.

But the opening of the facility sparked chaos in the neighbouring village of Mersham last week after the government gave truckers the wrong postcode. For more drone photos of the Sevington lorry park, click here. For all the latest Brexit news, views and analysis visit our dedicated page here

Read more: All the latest news from Ashford