Source: City of Winchester
Preparations to ensure the road network in Hampshire and beyond flows as well as possible after the EU Exit are now complete.
Operation Transmission – the Local Resilience Forum (LRF) plan – is fully resourced and ready to start with critical signage for hauliers at the roadside having been installed and ready to unveil on 1 January 2021.
This follows months of planning by local agencies, based on a ‘worst case’ scenario shared by Government. All possible options were looked at to mitigate the possibility of lorries backing up from Portsmouth International Port onto the road network, as a result of changes to EU export paperwork.
The only viable option, identified by the LRF, was to introduce short stay triage points where the border readiness of lorries could be checked – a primary one on the route to Portsmouth at the A31 outside Winchester and another at Tipner. All other options were discounted as they did not provide adequate mitigation. The final decision took into account how busy roads were on a typical day.
Whilst a deal has been agreed between the UK and EU relating to trade, changes to the paperwork required to be produced by hauliers for border readiness remain. Operation Transmission will therefore still be necessary to assist the flow of traffic on Hampshire’s strategic road network.
Extensive consultation has been carried out with freight hauliers, with clear information provided about the impact of arriving in Portsmouth and not being border ready. Planning has also involved implementing speed restrictions at two locations (details of locations provided in notes to editors below). These are not to do with traffic flow. They are required to ensure the safety of those who are working at the roadside as part of the plans.
When will we know if the plan is working?
Portsmouth International Port requires lorries to book well in advance. This means the LRF has demand data for the first few days of the New Year. It shows the first three days are likely to be quieter than peak demand. This will then build to ‘normal’ day demand. The reasons for the first days being quieter include non-working days, the impact of COVID-19 on road movements (including school traffic), possible stockpiling of goods, and some hauliers choosing to wait and see what happens.
– Op Transmission will commence on 1 January from 8am. This will give hauliers and those operating the triage points the opportunity to familiarise themselves as the plans bed in, and enable a live time assessment of how everything at the Port and beyond is working.
– Demand then starts to increase from the week of Monday 4 January. Regular updates to media will be published during this period.
Chief Fire Officer and Strategic Coordinating Group Chair for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight LRF, Neil Odin commented:
“We have planned for the worst case but, like everyone else, we are hoping for the best case. As well as the changes for hauliers as a result of leaving the EU, we are faced with a very unique set of circumstances including reduced travel due to COVID-19. There is also the possibility that some will be waiting and see what happens. Demand in the early days is projected to be lower but we expect that will grow with confidence and we need to be ready for that. I would ask people to remain patient whilst that happens.
“We know that people have questions in relation to whether the plans are really needed, why we have to put in place things like speed limits, and why the A31 was chosen. I would like to reassure people that we wouldn’t do this without good reason. All of these decisions are the product of months of planning, and are a crucial part of the plan.”
Plans have seen extensive engagement take place with communities around the A31 short stay triage area.
Commenting in relation to this, Councillor Rob Humby, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Economy, Transport and Environment at Hampshire County Council, said:
“We’ve been working closely with our partners in the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Resilience Forum (LRF) on a robust plan to keep traffic moving on the road network and therefore reduce the risk of traffic delays and congestion on Hampshire’s roads.
“We’ve engaged extensively with the local community since the LRF started working on the plan last year, keeping local councillors and the local MP informed at all stages. We are very fortunate in Hampshire to have strong and robust partnership arrangements in place with the LRF to respond to such challenging situations and I would like to reassure residents that we are working together to do everything possible to keep traffic flowing and ensure access to supplies and services can continue.”