No-deal Brexit vital freight carriers shortlisted

Eight sea, rail and air freight companies have been shortlisted for government contracts to transport critical goods, including vital medical supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The companies, including ferry operator DFDS and P&O, will bid for contracts to provide emergency freight capacity from 31 October, using ports away from the congested Channel routes between Dover and Calais, Dunkirk and Boulogne.

They will be able to bid for contracts which could be worth up to £300m over four years and are intended to provide resilience for Brexit and beyond.

The first contracts, to provide additional capacity in the event of no-deal, will be awarded in mid-October.

The Department of Transport says this will provide “ample time” to ensure the flow of medical supplies ahead of the current Brexit date of 31 October.

The government has warned a no-deal Brexit could lead to months of disruption to supply routes across the Channel, raising the prospect of medicine shortages.

Around 75% of imported medicine comes into the UK via Dover and the Channel Tunnel, and pharmaceutical companies have been asked to stockpile at least six weeks supply of medicine.

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The eight companies signed up to the framework include ferry operators, Brittany Ferries, DFDS A/S, Irish Ferries, P&O Ferries, Seatruck and Stena, as well as aviation freight provider Air Charter Services, and Eurotunnel.

The government was heavily criticised for its planning ahead of the 29 March departure date after it awarded a contract to Seaborne Ferries, a start-up company that did not own or lease any ferries at the time of its bid.

Eurotunnel also took the government to court saying the procurement process was unfair, winning a £33m settlement.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News in July he would ensure that all potential bidders were able to deliver on their contracts and the government has been careful to conduct a more rigorous process this time.

They say no money has been committed to any of these contracts yet, and will only be paid on delivery.

In a statement Mr Shapps said: “Preparations to leave the EU on the 31 October are continuing at pace and we will do whatever it takes to ensure the flow of life-saving medicines into the UK.

“This framework guarantees long-term national resilience and I’m confident the combined expertise of these high quality firms appointed to the framework will ensure we are ready for Brexit day and beyond.”

The contracts will be to provide routes into ports away from the short Channel straits, likely to include Portsmouth, Plymouth, Poole, Felixstowe and Immingham.

The freight terminals of Dover, Calais, Dunkirk, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Folkestone, Coquelles, and Barking are not included.

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