Welcome to hell! Families wait up to THIRTY HOURS to reach France as Dover chaos continues today: Liz Truss demands France acts over ‘entirely avoidable’ delays after they failed to staff passport booths (while they blame BREXIT of course!)
- There are expected to be delays for a second day at Dover as travellers get a frustrating start to their holidays
- A lack of French border control staff caused long queues at the port yesterday, sparking a cross-channel row
- One person claimed to have waited for 30 hours, while others said they had to sleep in their cars overnight
- Port officials have blamed a lack of staff, while the French have blamed increased checks needed after Brexit
Families have faced waits of up to 30 hours to board ferries to France as chaos continues today at the port of Dover as Liz Truss demands the EU nation acts over ‘entirely avoidable’ delays after some passport booths were left empty.
The Foreign Secretary waded into the row after some French border control officials failed to turn up on time yesterday, causing huge delays to families and lorry drivers trying to make the crossing into Europe.
However, France has hit back and blamed Brexit for the delays, saying it is taking longer to clear people to enter the country because of increased checks needed due to the UK leaving the European Union.
One French MP said these issues would continue to happen into the future because of this, and added that the port is ‘too small’ for the amount of traffic that goes through it.
As the blame game takes place between officials, families desperate to begin their summer holidays were left helpless.
Many people reported delays of up to seven hours as they tried to get into the port and onto ferries, while one unnamed man told the BBC he had been there for ’30 hours’ trying to make the crossing.
The port declared a ‘critical incident’ yesterday due to the delays and urged tourists to stay away amid concerns today could be even worse a it has to deal with the backlog.
There were also delays for people trying to get to the Eurotunnel at Folkestone, with MailOnline reporter John Sturgis reporting ‘at least two miles of queues by 7am’ this morning, and claimed one worker warned him waits of ‘eight hours’ could be possible.
Queues build up in Dover this morning as the travel chaos that has enveloped the port in recent days set to continue on the first weekend of the summer break
A man gets out of his car and stretches his legs as vehicles queue up to reach the port this morning. Yesterday some people claimed to have waited for more than seven hours to get on a ferry
People walk along the road as cars queue to try and reach the Eurotunnel at Folkestone in Kent this morning, amid claims delays could be up to eight hours today
This is the first weekend of what is expected to be the busiest school break in nearly a decade as families look to make the most of the holidays after two Covid-hit years.
The RAC said an estimated 18.8million leisure trips were planned in the UK between Friday and Monday – the most since it began tracking summer getaway numbers in 2014.
While airports have seen months of travel chaos due to staffing shortages following the pandemic, the start of the summer holidays has seen Dover become embroiled in this too, with miles of tailbacks into the port.
It has sparked a bitter row between the UK and France, with both sides essentially blaming the other for the delays.
UK officials have blamed a lack of French border security staff, with claims that of the 14 workers expected to turn up to passport booths yesterday, only six turned up on time.
Doug Bannister, chief executive of the port, said it was ‘let down’ by poor resourcing at the French border and this was ‘immensely frustrating’.
French officials said an ‘unforeseeable technical incident’ in the Channel Tunnel meant that the staffing of border control booths had to be pushed back from 8.30am to 9.45am on Friday morning.
But Eurotunnel’s Director of Public Affairs John Keefe told the BBC that the Tunnel incident had ‘absolutely nothing to do with problems at the Port of Dover’.
Now Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who is fighting to become the next Prime Minister in the Conservative leadership campaign, has waded into the row, saying it was an ‘awful’ but ‘entirely avoidable’ situation. ‘
Speaking yesterday, she said: ‘We need action from France to build up capacity at the border to limit any further disruption for British tourists and to ensure this appalling situation is avoided in future. We will be working with the French authorities to find a solution.’
However, Pierre-Henri Dumont, Republican MP for Calais, told the BBC: ‘This is an aftermath of Brexit. We have to run more checks than before.’
Mr Dumont also said the Port of Dover was ‘too small’ and that there were too few kiosks due to lack of space.
The war of words will come as little comfort to those stuck in the jams for hours on end as they struggle to get their summer breaks on the continent started.
Speaking to the BBC, brothers Ben and Eric Janousek said they had set off from Tunbridge Wells in Kent at 5am yesterday and still had to wait ‘seven or eight hours to get on a boat’ at the port.
They added that were frustrated by a lack of information about how long the delay was going to be.
Families are facing another day of gridlock around Dover with 19million cars hitting the roads today ‘after French staff caused delays’ – while protests are set to bring London to a standstill and the airport chaos rumbles on. Pictured: Lengthy traffic queues on the M20 on Friday evening
People make their way to the cruise terminal in Dover in Kent
People drag suitcases down the road as they make their way to the cruise terminal in Dover in Kent
People are seen dragging their suitcases down the road on their way to Dover
People drag their bags down the road to Dover because no taxis or buses are available
PORT OF DOVER: Cars queue at the check-in at the Port of Dover in Kent this morning as many families embark on summer getaways
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss blamed France for the delays and queues, calling them ‘unacceptable’ and ‘entirely avoidable’
PORT OF DOVER: Vehicles queue at Dover in Kent yesterday after the Port declared a ‘critical incident’ as queues built up
PORT OF DOVER: Cars queue at the check-in at the Port of Dover in Kent yesterday as many families embark on getaways
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps discussed the issue with his French opposite number, Clement Beaune, yesterday. He emphasised the need for close Anglo-French cooperation in future.
KENT: Traffic queuing to leave the closed coastbound M20 in Kent yesterday afternoon as families embark on getaways
FOLKESTONE: Traffic is almost at a standstill around the Folkestone area on Friday amid mass problems on the Kent coast
LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT: Passengers queue for check-in on a Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) flight at Heathrow on Friday
PORT OF DOVER: Vehicles queue at Dover in Kent on Friday after the Port declared a ‘critical incident’ as queues built up
FOLKESTONE: Traffic is almost at a standstill around the Folkestone area yesterday amid mass problems on the Kent coast
BRISTOL AIRPORT: Holidaymakers and commuters flying from Bristol Airport encounter lengthy queues early yesterday morning
At the start of the first unrestricted summer holidays since Covid struck in 2020:
And there’s still no end to airport nightmare
An environment minister said disruptive protest groups such as Extinction Rebellion are ‘absolutely right’ and the pressure they exert ‘does work’.
Lord Goldsmith said while they are ‘annoying’, their road blockages and property damage are productive.
The Conservative peer warned this week the Tories would be ‘digging our electoral grave’ if the next prime minister abandoned the party’s net zero commitments.
‘The principle is absolutely right,’ Lord Goldsmith told BBC Radio 4. ‘There is a real anxiety that we are heading towards a cliff and we’re not doing enough. And that’s true, we’re not. That kind of pressure… may be annoying but it works.’ Earlier this year his brother Ben made similar comments and faced calls to resign from his position as non-executive board member at Defra.
Yesterday traffic jams built up on the M5 during a ‘go-slow’ protest against high fuel prices organised by Fuel Price Stand Against Tax. About ten vehicles drove at 20mph and affected the M5 in Somerset and routes around Bristol.
- Air passengers faced lengthy queues at Heathrow, Bristol, Stansted and Manchester with around 1.3million people hoping to fly off over the weekend;
- An estimated 18.8million Britons are also expected to hit the roads today and tomorrow – with fears of serious jams on the busiest weekend in eight years;
- Central London is expected to grind to a standstill today with a ‘mass swarming march’ against the cost of living squeeze;
- Trains will grind to a halt once again next week with 40,000 RMT workers downing tools for 24 hours on Wednesday – and a further walkout of train drivers on Saturday.
Yesterday’s chaotic scenes heaped fresh misery on travellers who have already suffered months of disruptions at understaffed airports and endured strike action on the railways. But the war of words with France dominated as Dover chief executive Doug Bannister said they had been ‘badly let down’.
Port officials insist they had been preparing for a busy summer for months – doubling the number of border control booths and sharing traffic volume forecasts ‘in granular detail’ with the French.
But French border officers operated just six of their 12 booths at Dover during the early morning.
The resulting queues stretched for miles and backed up into Dover town centre and on to the M20. Natalie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, accused French officers of failing to turn up for work.
She added: ‘The French need to get a grip on this situation and get those passport booths staffed at maximum capacity during this critical weekend for holiday getaways.
‘The first two weekends of the summer holiday are the busiest. It’s highly likely there’ll be a repeat this weekend and next weekend.’
Her fellow Tory MP Greg Smith claimed the French were ‘cutting off their nose to spite their own face because Brits love France’.
He said: ‘It just beggars belief that the French are not doing everything they possibly can to secure the fast flow of passengers through their border controls.’
PORT OF DOVER: Huge queues at the Port of Dover in Kent yesterday as ferry companies warned of six-hour waits
LONDON STANSTED AIRPORT: Queues on Friday at London Stansted Airport as passengers wait to check in baggage
M5: Sudden heavy showers break out over the M5 motorway in the South West today amid heavy congestion yesterday
LONDON ST PANCRAS STATION: Queues for Eurostar services at London St Pancras Friday as the school holidays begin
M25: Heavy traffic on the M25 Junction 11 yesterday afternoon at the school summer holidays begin
The French official responsible for border management said that the delays were due to an ‘unforeseeable technical incident’.
Their passport booth staff journey through the Channel tunnel to reach Dover.
Georges-Francois Leclerc, a regional prefect, said: ‘The plan was to have all booths manned by 8am. But an unforeseeable technical incident in the tunnel meant that police had to push back their full deployment by an hour.’
His claims were dismissed by Eurotunnel’s John Keefe who said: ‘The incident at the port started overnight well before a minor technical incident in the Channel tunnel. There is absolutely no correlation between the two.’
A port source admitted it was likely the delays would run throughout the rest of weekend and potentially into next week. ‘Once you’ve lost control of the queue, it’s hard to get it back,’ they added.
Bernard Poon found himself trapped in the chaos with an unhappy toddler and three-month-old baby in the back of his car. ‘Moved 50 metres per hour,’ he said. ‘At this rate, it’ll be 34 hours before I get to the port.’
LONDON KING’S CROSS STATION: People at King’s Cross railway station in London yesterday as many families go on getaways
PORT OF DOVER: People walk with luggage through Dover in Kent Friday as many families embark on getaways
LONDON KING’S CROSS STATION: People at King’s Cross railway station in London Friday as many families go on getaways
PORT OF DOVER: A man cycles with a suitcase past traffic jams in Dover yesterday as many families embark on getaways
PORT OF DOVER: Cars queue at the check-in at the Port of Dover in Kent yesterday as many families embark on getaways
LONDON KING’S CROSS STATION: People at King’s Cross railway station in London on Friday as many families go on getaways
Lorry drivers were also caught up in yesterday’s disruption with one saying he had been queueing in his HGV since 6pm on Thursday without being able to cross.
Muhammet Turker from Turkey said: ‘I’ve been in something like this before, but this is the worst.’
He added that it eclipsed the P&O situation when workers for the ferry company protested against mass lay-offs earlier this year.
Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: ‘As the schools closed their doors fully yesterday, Saturday could prove busier still this weekend.
‘Drivers should continue to expect disruption and delays on major holiday routes to the south-west, eastern coast and ports of Dover and Folkestone.
‘While many have decided to go at the start of the summer holidays, between now and the beginning of September when schools return, each Friday and Saturday will be busy on our roads.
‘This is because these are the main switchover days for holiday lets.’