March 12, 2018updated 13 Mar 2018 7:48am

Brexit: One or two minutes delay at UK ports could mean hours of tailbacks for motorists, study

By Adele Berti

Brexit may have a negative impact on the UK’s infrastructure system, and could particularly lead to delays at vehicle checkpoints along the UK border, resulting in up to 29 mile-long motorway tailbacks in some cases, research has revealed.

The study, which was commissioned by the BBC and carried by Imperial College London, has found that adding two extra minutes to check a vehicle entering or exiting the UK could triple the queues to the port, something that villagers near the M20 motorway described as “alarming”.

Lorries travelling within the EU can currently enter the UK without going through complete customs declarations and with a minimal passport check.

However, researchers are warning that imposing longer custom checks will add 10 extra miles to the queues during peak hours for every additional minute spent checking.

With the UK set to leave the EU on 29 March 2019, the Treasury said that it is aiming to get as “frictionless” as possible with the European Union in the aftermath of Brexit.

The country will also seek to obtain a transition period lasting around two years.

According to Imperial College London’s research, it usually takes about two minutes to check a vehicle, which could cause 10 mile-long queues between 4pm and 7pm.

“An extra 10 miles concentrated on local streets resulting from motorway deadlock is entirely possible,” researchers said, adding that this would leave drivers waiting for about five hours on the route.

Dr Ke Han of the Centre for Transport Studies at Imperial College’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and leader of the study said:

It is counter intuitive because one or two minutes applied to each individual car would result in hours of delays and tens of miles of queues. That’s because there can be up to ten thousand vehicles that need to go through on a daily basis, and applying one minute to each one of them results in a cumulative effect.

The queue can stretch back by tens of miles and that’s a phenomenon we see quite often in traffic as the bottleneck is operating in a saturated situation. Any additional delay added to that choke point is going to be manifested disproportionately in terms of traffic queues and delays. The queues can further interact with local traffic and cascade congestion on a network scale.

The study (reported by the BBC here) was based on traffic simulation for the M20 and A20 area between Maidstone and Dover, where tailbacks could be 29.3 miles long in case the checking process takes at least four minutes.

Dover MP Charlie Elphicke said that the results of the research prove that the UK needs a free trade deal with the EU.

He said:

The obvious and logical thing at the beginning is to have a no-tariff deal because that way trade continues to flow between Britain and the EU and everyone wins.

The university claimed that more research is planned, though the outcome of Brexit negotiations is still too uncertain.

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