Congestion eases at English Channel port of Dover

·2-min read
© Reuters/Henry Nicholls

Officials at the English Channel port of Dover on Sunday said operations had returned to normal, after two days of lengthy delays blamed on post-Brexit border checks.

Frustrated holidaymakers were forced to wait for hours to reach the port and board ferries to France on Friday and Saturday, at the start of the busy summer getaway.

The UK government blamed France for failing to adequately staff their border posts at the port, prompting a swift denial from Paris.

The Port of Dover said the backlogs of freight and tourists from the last two days had been cleared overnight, although it said Sunday would remain "busy".

Some 72,000 passengers -- the equivalent of 320 kilometres of traffic -- had gone through the port already this weekend, it added.

"With the entire port system working efficiently, including strong support from French border colleagues and ferries running through the night, the Port demonstrated that its summer plan will work for the rest of the holiday period," the port said in a statement.

Eurotunnel, however, warned of delays to its rail shuttle service between nearby Folkestone and Coquelles in northern France, with motorists facing long queues to get to the terminal.

There were fears about chronic delays at Britain's ports even before the country left the European Union in full on 1 January last year.

Brexit ended free movement from Britain to EU member states, reintroducing systematic passport checks and customs controls for the first time in decades.

French border agency staff work alongside their UK counterparts to conduct checks at Dover.

Port officials initially said under-staffing of French border posts was to blame for the queues but officials across the Channel denied they were responsible.

French lawmakers said checks now took longer because Britain has "third-country" status outside the EU, and urged facilities to be improved at Dover.

Britain's readiness to cope at the border, including staffing and the introduction of new technology, was repeatedly questioned in the run-up to Brexit taking full effect.

Several British newspapers on Sunday said the government turned down a £33-million (39 million euros) bid for upgrades at the port, including new passport control booths.

(with AFP)

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