Traffic easing at Dover but travellers warned severe backlog remains

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Traffic easing at Dover but travellers warned severe backlog remains
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Traffic has begun to ease at the Dover port but travellers have been warned a large backlog remains.

Some 10,000 cars were expected at the port on Saturday, with more than 13,000 passengers said to be "on their way" before 10am.

Scenes of gridlocked roads and bumper-to-bumper cars seen on Friday were repeated as travellers, some of whom got out of their vehicles to stretch their legs while traffic was at a standstill, endured more lengthy waits.

Chaotic scenes at the port have prompted Foreign Secretary and Tory leadership hopeful Liz Truss to blame France for “entirely avoidable” delays, calling on officials there 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”.

Dover traffic jam and chaos for Summer getaway 2022

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Ms Truss re-stated her belief that the problems are down to not enough border resources, rather than extra checks post-Brexit, when asked directly about it at a Tory leadership campaign event on Saturday.

She said she had been “very clear” with French authorities that it is “a situation that has been caused by a lack of resource at the border”.

In an update on Saturday, port authorities said they were “relieved that French border staff (Police Aux Frontieres) have now been fully mobilised at French border controls in Dover”, but warned: “There is of course a way to go to clear the backlog of waiting passengers.”

An AA Route Planner traffic warning was still being issued to holidaymakers heading towards the Port of Dover and the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone, but only a few isolated pockets of heavy traffic remained elsewhere.

Roads are expected to be much quieter on Sunday, but a backlog of freight remains to be cleared.

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: “The picture throughout the day has been one of steady improvement. Travellers heading to holiday homes away from the South East earlier today would’ve felt some congestion around lunchtime and into the early afternoon, but those queues have now fallen away.

“It will be of little comfort to those still stuck in traffic heading to Dover and Folkestone that are still in for a long delay, but the backlog has been reducing. The next challenge facing these two key terminals is how quickly they can clear the lanes of lorries waiting to cross the Channel.”

Earlier on Saturday, travellers were told to “expect long delays” as the travel disruption at the Port of Dover continues.

Speaking on Saturday, Dover MP Natalie Elphicke warned that travel disruption is expected to worsen over the weekend as more Britons attempt to cross the Channel.

Although Britons faced large queues on Friday, she said traffic had already begun to build up in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Ms Elphicke told Sky News: “It was a dreadful start to that summer getaway yesterday and an appalling situation for residents in Dover too. There simply weren't enough French border police.

"Today I am hearing the French workers have turned up and they are expected to be manning the booths at capacity but there will be a knock-on effect as there always is when there is an issue that has happened at the ports.

"We are expecting long, long delays today, traffic has already been building up around the town and it is going to be a very serious situation on the roads again in Kent today."

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

But a French politician blamed Brexit for the chaos.

Pierre-Henri Dumont, Republican MP for Calais, said the problems at the Kent port would reoccur, telling BBC News: “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.

A “critical incident” was declared by the port due to the queues, with tourists urged to consider staying away, and warnings that Saturday may be just as bad.

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

In a statement, Tory leadership hopeful Ms Truss said: “This awful situation should have been entirely avoidable and is unacceptable.

“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.”

The chief executive of the Port of Dover said being “let down” by poor resourcing at the French border was “immensely frustrating”.

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

A French official 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”.

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

The port said in a statement that it had increased the number of border control booths by 50%.

It went on: “Regrettably, the PAF (police aux frontieres) resource has been insufficient and has fallen far short of what is required to ensure a smooth first weekend of the peak summer getaway period.”

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