Transport trade groups have reacted with differing levels of enthusiasm to the news that an additional £44.5 million is to be given to France by the UK to help strengthen security at French ports, including Calais.
The Freight Transport Association (FTA) said it welcomed the announcement, with its head of European policy, Pauline Bastidon, remarking: “Our priority is our drivers’ safety. We want them to feel safe while undertaking their daily tasks and operating across the area. Any measures that will help to reinforce their safety are therefore welcome.”
She continued: “While the situation has greatly improved as a result of the ‘Jungle’ camp clearance, something FTA campaigned for very actively, there is still evidence of tangible migrant activity, not only in Calais, but also on the roads leading up to the town.
“This is something that will only be solved through reinforced cooperation between the French and the UK governments. With Brexit looming on the horizon, this cooperation is more crucial now than ever.
“We also welcome the commitment from the French President that no new camp will be built or allowed to grow to replace the ‘Jungle’.”
She also urged FTA members to continue to take extra care when moving goods to and from the port areas, and to be “extremely vigilant” on the Calais approach roads.
Meanwhile, the Road Haulage Association said it was “astonished” at the announcement of the additional UK investment.
“We estimate that over £100 million has already been spent on improving security at the port,” said RHA chief executive Richard Burnett.
“Today we learn that another substantial sum is to be sent across the Channel to improve security fencing, CCTV and detection technology. So why is more investment needed?
“We already have it on very good authority that the heartbeat monitors installed at the border are not being used. Government should be pressing the French authorities to ensure that the security equipment already in place is being used before the British taxpayer is asked to fork out for more.
“And who can forget the ‘Great Wall of Calais’? Another security ‘white elephant’ paid for by UK taxpayers, that quickly proved itself to be a resounding failure.”
Mr Burnett said that, despite the millions being invested, the lives of the thousands of HGV drivers that travel through Calais were still being put at risk. Their protection was the RHA’s prime concern, he added; but he expressed concern that security at Calais was “turning into a money pit”.
“We need transparency as to where UK money is being spent,” he emphasised.
“We need to see the plan for tackling the situation, and that includes a proper processing system in northern France to deal with migrants making asylum applications.
“Simply throwing more money at the problem won’t make it go away… It requires the political will and leadership from the two governments to work together to restore the rule of law to these crucial international trade routes.”