Dover queues down to an hour after days of gridlocked roads around UK port

·5-min read

Queues at the Port of Dover are expected to be down to just an hour on Sunday, after two days of holidaymakers having to endure gridlocked roads and lengthy waits as the summer getaway began.

Traffic was said to be “flowing normally” in contrast to scenes of bumper-to-bumper traffic which caused travel chaos for thousands in recent days.

Extra post-Brexit border checks and French authorities’ understaffing of checkpoints in Dover have been blamed for the hold-ups.

More than 6,000 tourist cars were expected at the port on Sunday, as people continue their summer trips this weekend after most schools in England and Wales broke up for the holidays.

A spokesman for the port said: “French border is fully manned and everything is flowing normally.

“There will be queues but short term (less than 60 minutes) during the day.”

He said the port will “continue to issue the need to come prepared” when asked whether people should still ensure they have appropriate water, food and medical supplies with them if travelling.

In the early hours of Sunday, a tweet from the port said the “system brought in temporarily to manage excess traffic in the area had ended and traffic can proceed directly to the port”.

Motorists have been warned of more hours-long queues (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)
Motorists have been warned of more hours-long queues (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)

Shortly before 9.30am, the port said tourist traffic was “moving slowly” through border controls with an average waiting time of 60 minutes.

“Freight flows are freely flowing,” it added.

With the M20 coastbound still closed to non-freight traffic as part of Operation Brock, National Highways has warned of “severe delays” in Kent for people heading towards Dover or Eurotunnel.

Eurotunnel warned of a delayed service at Folkestone, with processing time on Sunday morning from check-in to boarding estimated to be around 90 minutes.

Mark Simmonds, director of policy and external affairs at the British Ports Association, said he was glad to hear the situation at Dover had improved.

He told BBC Breakfast: “We’re pleased to hear that things are going a little bit better today. The queues are down this morning.

“The booths are fully staffed and we’re told that the port expects those booths to be fully staffed throughout the summer.”

Traffic queuing on the M20 near Folkestone in Kent on Friday (PA) (PA Wire)
Traffic queuing on the M20 near Folkestone in Kent on Friday (PA) (PA Wire)

Port authorities said work undertaken by them and their partners, “including strong support from French border colleagues”, to clear traffic this weekend demonstrates that the Port of Dover’s “summer plan will work for the rest of the holiday period”.

Some 72,000 passengers – more than 200 miles of tourist and freight traffic combined – had been processed across the weekend up until Sunday morning.

Port chief executive Doug Bannister thanked travellers and Dover residents for their understanding during what he described as a “challenging period”, and said he was “incredibly grateful to everyone who has turned this situation around, from the French and UK authorities to our ferry operators, Kent partners and our own port staff”.

Foreign Secretary and Tory leadership hopeful Liz Truss said disruption at the port was the fault of French authorities when asked if Brexit was the reason for the transport chaos.

On Saturday, Ms Truss said she had spoken to French foreign minister Catherine Colonna.

She said: “I was clear the French authorities have not put enough people on the border and we need to see action from then to resolve the terrible situation which travellers, including families, are facing.”

The message came after a tweet from Ms Colonna, who stated the pair had a “good talk”.

Ms Colonna added: “We welcomed the cooperation between our competent technical services to reduce the delays. Need also to improve the facilities of the port of Dover.”

French politician Pierre-Henri Dumont, Republican MP for Calais, has blamed delays on the UK’s exit from the EU, telling BBC News it was “an aftermath of Brexit” with more checks needed and claiming the Dover port is “too small” with too few kiosks due to a lack of space.

Passengers embarking on cross-Channel sailings from Dover must pass through French border checks before they can board a ferry.

Mr Simmonds said Brexit “certainly is contributing” to the situation, with “a harder border than there was before”.

He added: “We’ve been saying this for years that extra checks would have an impact on capacity at certain ports and could cause congestion and disruption at certain times and the Port of Dover has worked very hard to make sure that that is mitigated.

“But at the end of the day, it just takes a little bit longer now to do checks at those ports and that can add up when you’ve got thousands and thousands of passengers.”

Traffic jams leading to the ferry port in Dover (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)
Traffic jams leading to the ferry port in Dover (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)

Natalie Chapman, from haulier group Logistics UK, echoed concerns about French staff numbers and Brexit changes.

She said: “As I say, the cause was that lack of resource yesterday but also, of course, it takes a lot longer to process through traffic than it used to.

“You used to, prior to Brexit, just wave your passport and they may or may not be looked at but now every one is checked and stamped.”

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