Easter travel chaos continues as 23-mile motorway stretch closed due to ferry shortage

Many residents in Kent are unimpressed by the traffic, as ITV News Business Editor Joel Hills reports

Easter travel trouble is continuing as holidaymakers trying to cross the English Channel have been brought to a standstill on the M20 due to a shortage of ferries.

A 23-mile coastbound stretch of the motorway was closed from junction eight (Maidstone) to junction 11 (Westenhanger) to store thousands of lorries heading for the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel as part of Operation Brock, and it's causing chaos on surrounding roads.

It comes as those trying to head on holiday by air and rail are also being hit by heavy disruption.

The A20 Roundhill Tunnel is closed under the Dover TAP scheme to prevent HGVs jumping the queue.

Thousands of lorries were stranded on both sides of the Channel Credit: ITV News

Delays to Channel crossings are being driven by the suspension of P&O Ferries sailings after the operator sacked nearly 800 seafarers without notice last month.

This is putting more strain on other ferry operators amid increased demand as many families travel overseas for Easter holidays.

DFDS said P&O Ferries customers will be unable to transfer their bookings onto its Dover-Calais sailings between Friday and Sunday because of a lack of capacity.

Operation Brock involves using a moveable barrier to create a contraflow system enabling lorries to queue and other traffic to keep moving in both directions.

However, the system has been overwhelmed, with Kent hit by long queues every day since Friday.

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The Port of Dover urged passengers to “allow plenty of time for their journey”.

“Last weekend, port staff together with ferry operators and Kent partners worked tirelessly to move traffic as effectively as possible", it said in a statement.

“We served 30,000 departing passengers, triple that of the corresponding weekend in 2021.

“Unfortunately, the commencement of the busy Easter getaway period coincided with the ongoing impact of reduced ferry services and bad weather that affected remaining operators earlier in the week, causing one vessel to be taken out of service for a couple of days. This caused some delays, notably for freight."

The statement added the remaining ferry operators were now back to their full complement of ships and the Port of Dover would be working with its partners, including the local resilience forum, National Highways and Kent Police "to ensure passenger journeys are as smooth as possible".

Ashford MP Damien Green called for changes to be made to Operation Brock.

He told KentOnline: “What we need is to make Brock work.

“We have established that up until now it does work, even in times of stress because the motorway is kept open.

“Once you close the motorway it makes it impossible, so the Kent Resilience Forum needs to look at what changes need to happen so Brock can cope with what is a very unusual situation, where more than half of the freight-carrying capacity at Dover has disappeared in one time.”

P&O Ferries announced on Wednesday that it is preparing to resume cross-Channel sailings.

A spokesman said: “P&O is looking forward to welcoming back vital services and we expect to have two of our vessels ready to sail on the Dover-Calais route by next week, subject to regulatory sign-off, namely both the Pride of Kent and Spirit of Britain between Dover-Calais.”