Football team's trip cancelled after 14 hours stuck onboard in Port of Dover queues

ITV News' Ian Woods reports on the latest at the Port of Dover

The backlog at the Port of Dover has finally begun to clear after many queued overnight to get to their ferries, while others missed out on holidays all together.

Passengers hoping to get away for their Easter break on Sunday night will still face a few more hours waiting to be processed at border controls.

In the chaos over the weekend, some holidays had to be abandoned for safety reasons because some coach companies said their drivers had been on duty for too long.

On Saturday, ITV News spoke to a football team heading to Amsterdam for a tournament. They revealed on Sunday that they never made it.

After 12 hours stuck onboard, the coach company said the driver had spent too long behind the wheel and couldn’t board the ferry.

Coach David Martin and his team waited 14 hours onboard before being forced to head home and miss their tournament

“We then had to sit in the queue for another two hours because we were stuck in the middle of a line of coaches because we couldn’t go anywhere," David Martin, a parent and football coach, told ITV News.

“So, we actually had to wait until we got to the front of the queue for passport checks where we could then turn the coach round, leave Dover and head home again."

Young players said they were “really disappointed” and that the “whole team had been really looking forward to the trip and it was sad we couldn’t go”.

P&O Ferries told coach drivers on Sunday to head straight to the port to join the buffer zone queues, where advance passenger information (API) will be taken, but said “currently there is a 6+ hour wait to reach the border check points”.

In a statement issued on Sunday evening, the Port of Dover said: “All of this weekend’s coach traffic is now contained in the port ready for processing through immigration controls. Coaches have been processed throughout the day along with tourist cars and freight vehicles.

“The Port of Dover continues to work with the ferry operators and border agencies to get the remaining coach passengers on their way as quickly as possible.

“We continue to offer our sincere apologies for the prolonged delays.”

The home secretary earlier insisted it would not be fair to view the delays as “an adverse effect of Brexit” and downplayed fears that delays at Dover could become a regular occurrence that risks ruining school holiday plans.

Suella Braverman suggested that in general “things have been operating very smoothly at the border”.

Passengers were still facing queues of hours on Sunday evening. Credit: PA

She told Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News: “What I would say is at acute times when there is a lot of pressure crossing the Channel, whether that’s on the tunnel or ferries, then I think that there’s always going to be a back-up and I just urge everybody to be a bit patient while the ferry companies work their way through the backlog.”

The Port had earlier said it was "incredibly frustrated" with the delays, which they put down to “lengthy French border processes and sheer volume”.

Additional coach bookings taken by ferry operators for Easter had also impacted operations, a previous statement from the Port said.

The coach industry said something must be done to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Phil smith, confederation of passenger transport UK, told ITV News: “Coaches need to be allowed a clear path to cross the channel. The future of international coach travel really does hang on this sort of episode not recurring in the future”.

Traffic delays began on Friday, when the Port of Dover was forced to declare a critical incident on Friday night, with some travellers experiencing queues of up to 16 hours while waiting to board ferries.

Extra sailings were run overnight on Saturday to try and clear the backlog, but coach passengers hoping to travel to Europe for the Easter break were stuck in their vehicles overnight as the delays continued.

Passengers and concerned parents took to Twitter to complain about lengthy overnight waits.

"My daughter was due to sail at 12pm yesterday and is still sat in a queue. My worry now is the coach driver’s fitness to drive once in France," one person wrote.

Another said: "Got here at 10.30pm Sat, now 4.56am Sun and still 3 coaches in front of us. 7h here and total queue time now c.19h."

Traffic at the Port of Dover in Kent Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

Port officials earlier said they had been “working round the clock” with ferry operators and border agencies to try to get coach passengers on their way and more than 300 coaches left the port on Saturday, while the freight backlog was cleared and tourist cars had been successfully processed.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged the government to “get a grip” of the situation at Dover.

“I really feel for people trying to get through Dover. There will have been families who have booked holidays and now they are frustrated yet again and I think the nature of the frustration will be ‘not again’,” he said.

“This is not the first time there have been problems at Dover. The government needs to get a grip of this.

“You can’t have every summer holiday, every Easter holiday, the same old problem. And so the government needs to get a grip on this and actually help people out, who are just trying to get away for a few days’ holiday.”

A government spokesman said: “The UK government remains in close contact with ferry operators, the French authorities, and the Kent Resilience Forum, regarding delays at the Port of Dover.

“The port has advised that it remains busy, but the situation has improved significantly since yesterday, with coaches being processed at a much quicker rate.

“We recommend passengers check the latest advice from their operators before travelling.”

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