Major plan aims to stop traffic jams in Dublin after Brexit

‘Operation Purge’ seeks to stop port congestion spilling into city and on to motorways

A major traffic plan will be launched early next month to prevent Brexit-related traffic congestion at Dublin Port spilling out into the city, the port tunnel and the motorway network.

The contingency plan – known as Operation Purge – will be designed to ensure that the tunnel remains open and that key thoroughfares around it, including the M1 and M50, do not become congested should new border checks introduced at the port after the UK leaves the EU on October 31st lead to delays.

The operation, which will come into effect if lorry traffic in the port backs up, will mean port-bound trucks travelling in through the port tunnel are redirected at Dublin Port and sent back out the north bore of the tunnel.

The lorries will be directed to park up at service stations and other areas off the motorway network that they normally use until congestion at the port eases.


Dublin Port Company and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, the State agency responsible for managing the tunnel and national road network, are leading the management of the plan and will work closely with the Garda and Dublin City Council to avoid traffic jams in the city centre.

Despite a €30 million investment in new checkpoints and other border infrastructure at the port, officials are concerned that there may be insufficient State resources applied to manning those inspection points.

There is a fear that congestion may also build up due to importers and exporters being unprepared for post-Brexit checks and traders not having the correct paperwork in place for their goods, leading to delays at checkpoints.

The arrival of multiple ships from Britain – two large ships arrive from Holyhead every six hours – raises the possibility of further congestion at peak transit times at the port following the introduction of additional checks on imports from the UK.

“If congestion arises due to factors outside the control of Dublin Port, we will confine congestion to within the port so we do not allow it to spill out into the city’s streets, Dublin Port Tunnel or the national motorway network,” said Eamonn O’Reilly, chief executive of Dublin Port Company.

He said that it was “quite possible” there would be congestion at the port after Brexit because of the “mismatch between the unpreparedness of hauliers, importers and exporters, and the capacity of State agencies to cope. It would be negligent of us not to plan on the basis that there could be congestion.”

There are no plans for a trial run of how the plan might work in practice ahead of the UK’s departure. Further details on Operation Purge will be publicised among operators and users of the port in the coming weeks.

“The big conundrum in all of this is that we are dealing with unbelievable levels of uncertainty,” said Mr O’Reilly.

“People are allowing themselves to fall into a trap where they are trying to answer questions they cannot answer. We need to be absolutely upfront about the uncertainties.”

Meanwhile, the Port of Dover – a key transit point for Irish traders importing and exporting goods to mainland Europe over the UK "land bridge" – has downplayed the possibility of a dedicated channel for Irish lorries post-Brexit to avoid potential hold-ups alongside UK trucks awaiting EU customs and other checks on France-bound exports.

Doug Bannister, the port's chief executive, told The Irish Times this would lead to "a degree of non-compliance".

“What would stop another lorry from getting into that lane because it happens to be moving?” he said.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times