Updated contingency plans aimed at keeping any disruption at the Port of Holyhead to the absolute minimum when the EU Transition period ends on 31 December have been announced by the Welsh Government.
Holyhead is the key entry and exit point for goods transport between the UK and Ireland and its status as the second busiest roll-on roll-off ferry port in the UK means it provides a vital link in the supply chain for businesses across Wales, the UK and Ireland.
Welsh Government is responsible for managing the trunk road network and is planning for the potential impact of delays for hauliers travelling to Ireland, when the EU applies new border controls to UK traffic on 1 January 2021.
Ferry operators will require freight customers bound for Ireland to link customs information to their booking and if they arrive without having done so they won’t be able to enter the port.
The UK Government’s Border Operating Model sets out that physical checks will not be conducted on the majority of inbound goods until July 2021 and discussions are ongoing about the infrastructure required to deliver those checks.
The reasonable worst case scenario published by the UK Government highlights that 40 to 70% of HGVs arriving at ports after the end of the Transition Period could be turned away as they do not have the right documentation. The peak is expected around mid-January. Delays could also result due to new border checks in Dublin which could delay sailings causing a backlog of HGVs in Holyhead.
Ongoing uncertainty on border infrastructure including the location of the long-term site for inbound hauliers from Ireland to be used when further border checks are introduced later next year has impacted on the planning process.
As part of Welsh Government’s plans to minimise disruption the following measures are being introduced:
- A temporary contraflow is to be introduced on the A55 between Junction 2 to 3 with the option to extend to 4 if required. This will be in place from December 28 ready for use from January 1. All HGVs turned away from the port will be redirected to the contraflow where they will either be stacked while they sort their paperwork or redirected to other sites off Junction 2 if there is space.
- Plot 9 Parc Cybi is being prepared as a stacking site from mid-January and negotiations are continuing to use the Roadking truck stop as a site from January 1.
- Stacking on the A55 remains the contingency option to use should there be no space on any other site. The temporary contraflow will be used to redirect HGVs if other sites are available for stacking. This means the site may appear empty at times but is still being used at busy times to safely redirect HGVs. It is not possible to dismantle the contraflow in between busy times.
- Signage will be in place from December 14 to alert of possible delays from January 1.
Updates will be provided on the plans.
Transport and North Wales Minister Ken Skates said:
“Our main aim is to ensure, as much as it is possible to do so, that any disruption to the port of Holyhead, residents of the town and wider area is kept to the absolute minimum.
“In current circumstances, operating a temporary contraflow on the A55 from January is the only certain option to ensure unready HGVs can be parked in a Covid-secure way and local traffic can continue to flow around Holyhead from 1 January. We are planning on securing access to Roadking as a primary holding site, and in parallel, we are starting urgent works at Parc Cybi to make additional space available over the course of January.
“Introducing a contraflow is not something we want to do but it has become the necessary thing to do. The uncertainty we face means we have to take every step protect the port and town of Holyhead from disruption.
“This is a situation we have never faced before and while we have reasonable worst case forecasts that between 40 and 70 per cent of hauliers could be turned away initially, the actual situation could be different.
“As we see the extent to which this is borne out in practice, and seek to make additional spaces available for lorries at Parc Cybi, we will review how much space is required and will seek to stand down the contraflow as soon as we are confident it is no longer required and are safely able to do so.
“We have always been clear that the UK Government’s approach on our future trading relationship with the EU would risk major disruption in Wales, particularly at the border. Uncertainty remains on key issues.
“We have been working with our partners across North Wales, including Isle of Anglesey Council, to do the upmost to protect the port of Holyhead, maintain this vital route and minimise any disruption for communities.”
Isle of Anglesey County Council Leader, Councillor Llinos Medi, added:
“We are working in partnership with Welsh Government to protect Holyhead’s position as one of the main international gateways and mitigate any potential disruption to the town and its residents during the forthcoming transition period.”
“With EU Exit almost upon us, we support the steps currently being taken by Welsh Government to achieve these important aims.
“Our priority remains providing safe and efficient trade and traffic movement through the Port of Holyhead, whilst protecting our local communities.”