Roger Roberts writes: Upgrading the port of Holyhead?

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Johnson’s government deserves no applause. In so many instances it has shown itself unable or unwilling even to recognise that problems exist. One of the issues that show how incompetent they are is that of the port of Holyhead. It is expected that, with the UK’s departure from the European Union that trade between the Irish Republic and the UK will be very different and with far more documentation required.

It is already announced that, in an attempt to avoid tariffs and time consuming form filling, one ferry line will be sailing directly from an Irish port to mainland Europe.

I asked the government how many vehicles were involved – the answer – HMG has not required any such estimate! Have they done something as simple as checking how many lorries are carried on ships arriving in Holyhead ?

On March 2 2020 the minister replied “The ports that are best prepared will have competitive advantage”. Was this a little hope? At that time Dublin had spent £30 million upgrading its port with extra warehousing, animal accommodation and so on. I contacted folk at Holyhead – not a penny spent on upgrading on this side of the Irish sea!

Ministers assured me that there was plenty of time to organise these improvements. so I asked another question which was answered on December 11th.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what space will be available for truck drivers arriving at the Port of Holyhead from Ireland to complete documentation papers from 1 January 2021.

The answer came:

The small facility at Roadking in Holyhead, which was prepared last year, will remain for drivers seeking to complete their ATA Carnet paperwork. This will require traders to book in advance with Border Force who will attend to endorse the Carnets.


HMRC will be engaging with Stena and Border Force to explore whether there is any capacity for the port to accommodate other checks.

In the meantime Lorry drivers must travel to register at Warrington 102 miles away!

December 14 brought the confirmation:

We have purchased no land.

We need this lorry parking facility in a little over a fortnight !

* Lord Roberts of Llandudno is a Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords

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  • George Thomas 16th Dec '20 - 9:23pm

    It’s scandalous how late attention turned to Holyhead. I read that it’s the second biggest port link to Europe the UK has and yet no one outside of Wales was talking about it until December. All of the carpark and last minute preparation but none of the extra jobs – typical of the English nationalists living in Number 10.

  • Romer Hoseason 16th Dec '20 - 10:30pm

    There is a nice car park that is sort in the right place. it isn’t that near the Holyhead so can also serve Liverpool port but the waste of space called the M6(Toll) is available and mainly empty.

  • Whilst Hollyhead is closest to Dublin, we should not forget that there are other (larger) ports in the UK that also face on to the Irish sea and could utilise Irish ports other than Dublin.

  • John Marriott 17th Dec '20 - 9:11am

    And what about Hull, Immingham and Grimsby on the East Coast? Why should lorries from the north always have to drive down to the Kent Coast to gain access to Europe? OK the crossing takes longer; but it would give the drivers a longer rest time.

  • See that it is said the EU has set Sunday for a new deadline, then the caveat, “for this year”.
    How much of all that is going on is a cover for the new situation post January 20. Both sides let the negotiations go on, in comes the new Biden administration, they want another Referendum and “reluctantly”, what with Covid and all the problems including , lorries being allowed to pile up at the docks etc, including Holyhead, the government agrees. Boris says we are best in Europe and hey ho we all back track.
    There is clear majority to stay with Europe and Farage is sidelined.
    Is it a dream?

  • Paul Barker 17th Dec '20 - 6:00pm

    Yes, its a dream.
    That would split The Tories & they matter a lot more than The UK to Johnson.

  • GWYN Williams 17th Dec '20 - 7:36pm

    As Roger mentions the North Wales and North West England customs point at Warrington. The Warrington Guardian reports that Liberal Democrat councillors Judith Wheeler and Sharon Harris are voicing the concerns of many over the new customs point at Appleton Thorn, Warrington. Hundreds of extra lorry movements every day, 365 days per year.

  • Roger Roberts 17th Dec '20 - 9:27pm

    Even before Brexit
    A Traffic Wales spokesman said: “Holyhead port is currently experiencing high levels of freight traffic.

    “This is due to disruption on the Birkenhead to Belfast Stena service with vehicles being diverted to Holyhead.

    “Traffic Management will be implemented to deal with the increased congestion approaching the Port.”


  • What people are missing, and John Marriott alludes to this is, if I am doing business with customers in continental Europe and so currently am using Immingham, Felixstowe, Folkstone or one of the airports, what will be the value of switching to sending shipments to Ireland? It simply adds another step and delay in the process of getting goods to Continental Europe.

    So in the cold light of day just what is going to be the value of shipping via Ireland after 1-Jan-2021 – deal/no deal?

  • It’s not just Holyhead which, AFAIK, is the UK’s second biggest ferry port (but NOT to ‘Europe’ meaning the continent; to ‘Europe’ meaning Ireland as part of the EU).

    Some of that Irish traffic is between UK and Irish firms but much of it is using the UK as a land bridge to the continent – much better than the long haul round the toe of Cornwall, especially with winter storms rolling in from the Atlantic. So, any snafus will be massively damaging for the Irish economy and would put both the EU and Biden in a VERY, VERY bad mood.

    The impending chaos at Holyhead looks to become general at many/most ferry ports. The FT’s Public Policy Editor, Peter Foster, recently posted a must-read Twitter thread about it.

  • nvelope2003 18th Dec '20 - 2:52pm

    I wonder if when the secret ballot was introduced many thought it would lead to people voting for crazy ideas like those advocated by the present Government. Listening to the news is like listening to the daily report from the madhouse. How much longer can this nonsense go on. If they want the UK to become another Singapore they might have to invite a few million immigrants into the country. Talking to foreign employers they tell me even they have lost all confidence in this Government and when I said people have gone completely crazy, after an embarassed silence they agreed.

  • Alex Macfie 18th Dec '20 - 4:36pm

    What’s the secret ballot got to do with it? Surely without the secret ballot it would be easier to intimidate/bribe/blackmail people into voting for crazy ideas.

  • nvelope2003 – It is indeed like the madhouse and has done incalculable harm to the UK’s reputation.

    I don’t think it’s got much to do with secret ballots though. I put it down to the lack of an opposition with a coherent plan – or indeed any plan at all.

    GDP averages conceal that, while some have made out like bandits (some ARE bandits!), the last few decades, and especially the last one, have been terrible for most people – a time of increasing insecurity, casualised and poorly-paid work, ever-more expensive housing, more debt and so on. In short, ‘official’ politics has nothing to offer.

    So, with the ‘official’ parties all looking he same apart for the colour of their rosettes, it opened the door to the snake oil salesmen, the only ones offering anything different. So, they won. That it made no sense and won’t work as advertised was always irrelevant to the decision. It will, however, soon become very relevant to the recriminations that are about to erupt.

    History doesn’t repeat but it does rhyme. Is it fanciful to detect a tone last heard in Europe in the Germany in the 1930s? Back then, Germany had had a bad time, losing WW1 followed soon after by hyperinflation. That ended with the roaring 20s but they were financed by ‘hot’ (i.e. highly mobile) largely US money so that ended with a bang in 1929 with the Wall Street crash.

    Only one very marginal politician – a certain Adolf Hitler – had warned in advance of the crash that too much hot money was dangerous and only he advocated that deficit spending was the answerto the austerity that followed. (Fortunately, he got just about everything else wrong and was a terrible strategist.) Conversely, the respectable established parties wouldn’t contemplate deficit spending and went for austerity. On top of the previous two decades that soon became just too much for many Germans and the rest is history.

    Now I am emphatically NOT saying that the personalities are in any way comparable since they are very clearly not. What I am saying is that too much austerity, piled on top of other troubles and continued too long has consequences.

  • @Gordon – Yes the use of the UK as a potential land bridge, isn’t new. I suggest anyone aware of European trade routes would have been aware of this option 10+ years back.

    It is notable that the establishment parties (Con, Lab, Libdem) all backed the London-Birmingham vanity shuttle (aka HS2) rather than the commercially viable project (ie. it had a business case that private investors where willing to invest in) to enhance the port of Liverpool, upgrade mostly existing rail infrastructure (parts of which are now committed to HS2), and bring forward the construction of a second channel tunnel, it only need the government to commit to supporting the project and specifically the identified infrastructure upgrades… This combined with an economically justifiable project that would have attracted EU monies, for a high-speed rail (suitable for freight) link connecting the channel tunnels with south Wales and Ireland, would have made the current ports capacity problem largely irrelevant and actually given the UK a card to play in the current trade negotiations…

    Given your link and the under-funding of rationale port improvements, I do wonder if the Conservative party and its backers really want the UK to drop out of the world’s interdependent trade/economic system…

    It does seem the fish does rot from the head down; the time really has come to overhaul the Westminster ‘boardroom’.

  • nvelope2003 19th Dec '20 - 1:42pm

    Alex Macfie. The secret ballot was introduced to stop electors being influenced by bribes from the pockets of the candidates or their backers or pressure from landlords or employers etc on the assumption that they would then vote rationally but at least people knew who was responsible for the result. Now the parties use public money provided by the taxpayers or more probably by borrowing to induce them to vote for their pet schemes which can be influenced by their own financial gain or out of date notions. Bribes can be in the form of unwarranted tax cuts to the well off to be paid for by other taxpayers, promises to spend money on popular public services with money saved from essential activities that are not popular or disliked by the proponents or free services for selected groups of people known to be more likely to vote, also paid for by other taxpayers. So bribery has been nationalised and paid for by taxpayers sparing the political parties and candidates huge sums of money and people, as before the Ballot Act, can vote irresponsibly believing that they are unlikely to suffer any adverse consequences. This is leading to the collapse of the democratic system in the Western World and can only be to the benefit of the authoritarian regimes which are growing in confidence and power as they mock our feeble protests against their misdeeds and our failure to invest in our essential public services in order to finance more popular policies or reward contractors with grossly overpriced schemes.

  • Marc Ricketts 9th Jan '21 - 11:02am

    Why cant they plan a Brand New Channel or Bridge from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire in the future. And start to plan the New Project straight away. Not only that. Why cant they plan a Brand New Train Service from ether London Euston or London St Pancras international to Londonderry. Thats stopping at Dun Laoghaire, Dublin Connolly, Balbriggan, Drogheda, Dundalk, Newry, Portadown and Belfast Central until it arrives in Londonderry?

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