MPs have accused the Department for Transport of failing to make timely preparations to procure extra freight capacity in the face of continuing uncertainty over the final outcome of the Brexit negotiations.
The House of Common Public Accounts Committee has just published a report calling the DfT’s procurement approach “rushed and risky”.
“Despite being aware that the ferry industry would need time to put in place additional capacity, the department did not start serious preparations to procure this additional capacity until September 2018, just six months before the UK is due to leave the EU,” it said.
“Our inquiry has thrown up that the department did not have any written assurance that Seaborne Freight had a shipping partner until after the contract was agreed and then signed.
“The Department for Transport has been also over-optimistic about how much capacity it could secure and has ultimately failed to deliver the freight capacity it required. This was in part because of the late decision to procure the capacity and the unusual and secretive approach to procurement.
“Time has now run out to procure significant additional capacity by other means. This has implications for securing the flow of priority goods.”
The Road Haulage Association said it was not surprised by the committee’s findings. Chief executive, Richard Burnett said: “For the past 18 months we have strongly voiced our concerns to government officials, specifically to the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling. Each time our concerns were met with the same response: that UK international hauliers had nothing to worry about.
“We have never shared Mr Grayling’s optimism and this report confirms our doubts.”