Christmas travel delays continue in Dover for travelling Brits as Eurotunnel strike ends

Passengers wait at the Eurostar entrance in St Pancras International station Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Christmas getaway disruption is continuing with long queues for cross-Channel journeys, motorway closures and train cancellations.

The Port of Dover in Kent said it is taking about 90 minutes to process cars with pre-booked tickets.

It attributed the delay to a surge in demand for ferries after the Channel Tunnel rail link was closed on Thursday due to unscheduled industrial action by French workers, which ruined the travel plans of tens of thousands of people.

Eurostar, which operates passenger services to and from London St Pancras, said it will operate two extra services per day between London and Paris up to and including Christmas Eve to help people whose trains were cancelled on Thursday.

Vehicle-carrying train service Eurotunnel said it is running its usual timetable but is only accepting customers who have pre-booked.

The M20 motorway in Kent has now reopened, after being closed in the coastbound direction between junctions 8 and 9 due to Operation Brock, which involves organising a queue for freight traffic during disruption to cross-Channel services.

The industrial action affected Eurostar, which operates passenger services to and from London St Pancras Credit: James Manning/PA

Eurotunnel, whose French site staff carried out strike action, said: “Eurotunnel management and trade union representatives have reached an agreement at the end of a day marked by strike action which led to the closure of the terminals and the interruption of services since midday.

“This agreement means that LeShuttle services will resume progressively this evening and Eurostar tomorrow morning.

“Eurotunnel welcomes this agreement and reiterates its apologies to all LeShuttle customers as well as Eurostar passengers and rail freight operators whose traffic has been impacted by this strike.”

Eurostar said: “Train traffic will resume tomorrow, with a normal timetable out of London, Paris and Brussels.

“To help support our customers who could not travel because of the Eurotunnel strike, Eurostar will run six extra trains between Paris and London”.

The high-speed rail service will run an extra two trains each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“Customers who have been affected today have received direct communication about their journey and had the option to exchange their tickets free of charge or claim a refund,” Eurostar added.

The suspension in cross-Channel rail services led to widespread disruption.

The M20 coastbound carriageway between Junctions 8 and 9 was temporarily closed.

Kent Police announced the “emergency measure” to allow freight bound for the continent to queue on the empty section of motorway to try to minimise disruption to Kent’s wider road network.

The force has so far not announced its reopening.

The Port of Dover continued to report a 90-minute wait time for tourists at French border control, but said it was “expected to clear over the coming hours” as Le Shuttle recommences its cross-channel services.

Earlier, news agency Reuters obtained a statement from Getlink, which owns the Channel Tunnel and operates Eurotunnel Le Shuttle services, which said: “Today’s call for strike action by representatives of Eurotunnel’s French site staff unions has resulted in the complete interruption of service and the closure of our terminals in France and the UK.”

The company reportedly added that trade unions had rejected an offer of a bonus worth 1,000 euros (£867) per employee, demanding a payment worth three times as much.

Strong winds were also disrupting the Christmas getaway on Britain’s domestic railway.

Trains from London Euston were affected by damage to overhead electric wires, and services continue to be disrupted even after engineers reopened the railway.

Ross Haynes, 31, said he was travelling to visit family members in Manchester when his train was cancelled at Euston station.

The communications professional based in west London said: “Obviously, I’m very disappointed. I was looking forward to getting up to Manchester and seeing my family.

“I was on the train, headphones in, podcast on and ready to go. Suddenly, everything was cancelled and we were turfed off.

“It’s very frustrating and has led to absolute chaos.”

TransPennine Express urged passengers to avoid travelling to or from Edinburgh all day on Thursday.

The RAC estimated 13.5 million leisure journeys by car would take place across the UK between Friday and Sunday, up 20% on the three days before Christmas Day last year.

Strong winds were also disrupting the Christmas getaway on Britain’s domestic railway Credit: James Manning/PA

Road congestion was likely to peak today (22 December) – the last working day before Christmas Day – as drivers embarking on leisure trips competed for road space with commuters and business traffic.

Motorists were being advised to travel before 11am or after 6pm if possible to reduce the chance of being stuck in long queues.

Likely traffic hotspots on the M25 identified by transport analysis company Inrix include clockwise between junction 7 (for the M23/Gatwick Airport) and junction 16 (for the M40/Birmingham), and anti-clockwise between junction 17 (Rickmansworth) and junction 12 (for the M3).

Other motorway stretches expected to see long queues included the M1 north from Woburn, Bedfordshire, to Daventry, Northamptonshire, and the M6 south from Wigan, Greater Manchester, to Stafford, Staffordshire.

Likely traffic hotspots on the M25 have been identified by a transport analysis company Credit: PA

National Highways said it had removed more than 1,000 miles of roadworks on England’s motorways and major A-roads, meaning 98% of its network would be free of cones over the festive period.

Network Rail is preparing to launch its festive engineering works, which will cause disruption to journeys.

London Paddington will be closed between Sunday and December 27, meaning no mainline trains will serve Heathrow Airport during that period.

London King’s Cross will also be closed on Christmas Eve.

Outside of the capital, an engineering project near Southampton will cause some disruption to services, as will work to build the new Cambridge South station.

No trains will operate on Christmas Day, while a very limited service will run on Boxing Day.

Meanwhile, millions of people are heading to airports to catch flights to spend Christmas overseas.

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