Dover delays described as 'worst experienced' after critical incident declared

  • Holidaymakers have been queuing for hours to reach the Port of Dover (Credit: Kent Live/BPM MEDIA)

Travellers say waits at Dover are the worst they have experienced, with one lorry driver waiting more than 15 hours.

A "critical incident" has been declared by the Kent port, with tourists urged to consider staying away.

CEO Doug Bannister says they have been "badly let down" by the French border controls in the town, which is "insufficiently resourced", and could not promise the chaos would be gone by Saturday.

Holidaymakers are being warned of worse to come on Saturday, with another day of delays expected on a peak travel day as families set off for the school summer break.

Port officials at Dover have warned of delays of at least six hours, while the EuroShuttle at Folkestone is advising of three hour delays.

Port of Dover CEO Doug Bannister has apologised to travellers for the delays

Muhammet Turker, a Turkish lorry driver has been queuing in his HGV in Dover since 6pm on Thursday, and was still waiting to cross the Channel after 10am on Friday morning.

He said: "I've been in something like this before, but this is the worst."

He added that this chaos was "worse than P&O," when workers for the ferry company protested against mass lay-offs earlier this year, causing gridlock in Dover, and that other lorries kept cutting in front of him in the queue.

The delays comes just two days after the port revealed it has installed 50% more French border control booths to try and improve traffic systems ahead of the summer getaway.

One group of holidaymakers, stuck in the queues, have missed their ferry

John Till, a railway manager from west Dorset, and his mother, Edna Johnson, 87, were due to travel to the Port of Dover on Friday but reports of the disruption prompted him to spend £400 changing his plans.

He said: "I saw that people had already been queuing for four hours, I'm taking my elderly mother over to see some friends in (Bavaria in) Germany, so I have a really long drive on the other side when we arrive.

"I couldn't run the risk of being stuck in a queue for four hours with no toilets and the horrendous drive the other side, so at half four this morning I made the snap decision to rebook travel with Brittany Ferries and travel from the Port of Poole, which is a lot more expensive."

Mr Till said he had "no other choice" than to make the £400 change because the trip had been in the works for a "very long time" and there was "no way I was going to let my mum down".

Aerial footage shows the traffic has backed up on to local roads

The Port of Dover said in a statement: “The Port is working to do all it can with ferry operators and local partners to assist with clearing the queues caused by inadequate French border capacity. 

"Resource at the French border has increased this morning and traffic is slowly beginning to move, but it will take some time to clear the backlog.

"Passengers need to come prepared with water, food and supplies and to check with their chosen ferry operator for the latest information and advice. 

"Passengers are also asked to avoid trying back routes to reach the port as that makes the situation worse, particularly for local residents.

"Continual high holiday traffic volumes are fully expected, and our freight customers also remain significantly delayed, so we urge French colleagues to adequately resource the border, not just to relieve the current situation, but for the rest of the weekend and indeed the rest of the summer to keep our community clear, to get families on their holidays and to keep essential trade moving.

"The Port urges the UK government to continue working with French counterparts in order to ensure this is the case.”

Natalie Elphicke, the MP for Dover and Deal said on Twitter: "This is not the start to a Summer break that anyone would have wanted to see with families and lorries stuck for hours in traffic trying to get on a ferry at Dover and severe traffic jams across our area.

“I am doing everything I can to see the situation is improved. More needs to be done to Keep Dover Clear and local traffic moving.

“There have been weeks of preparation by the Port of Dover, Kent Resilience Forum and Department for Transport for this Summer get away peak weekend. There was much work with French counterparts too.

“Despite all this, French Border Officers didn’t turn up for work at the passport controls as needed. This has caused massive delays.

“More French officers are reported to be arriving. It’s vital that the French passports controls are fully staffed during this peak holiday period.”

To add to the problem, there has been a serious collision involving a van and a lorry on the M20 coastbound between Junctions 11A and 12.

Motorists are advised to avoid the area if at all possible, with the roads in and around Dover already very busy due to delays at the port.

Transport Grant Shapps added later on Friday that he was working closely with his French counterpart, Clement Beaune, to address the issues causing the tailbacks.Mr Shapps tweeted: "I welcome his commitment that both Britain & France will work closely to minimise further disruption so people can get away quickly."

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