Delays return to Port of Dover at start of Easter getaway
By Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent
Ferry passengers have faced long delays at the Port of Dover days after thousands of holidaymakers were stuck there for several hours.
There were queues of “approximately 90 minutes” for passport checks by French officials at the Kent port as the Easter bank holiday getaway started, ferry operator DFDS wrote on Twitter.
The company told passengers on Thursday morning this was due to “high volumes of traffic”.
The queue had eased by 1pm, with DFDS saying “traffic is free flowing through border controls and check-in”.
There were chaotic scenes at the port last weekend when thousands of people were delayed, reportedly by up to 14 hours.
Delays at the port have been blamed on French border officials carrying out extra checks and stamping UK passports following Brexit.
Port officials said they held a “urgent review” with ferry operators and the French authorities in an attempt to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s delays.
Ferry companies are asking coach operators booked on sailings on Good Friday – expected to be the busiest day for outbound Easter travel from Dover – to “spread the travel” across the three-day period from Thursday to Saturday.
Additional “temporary border control infrastructure” has also been installed.
Transport minister Richard Holden described last weekend’s conditions at Dover as “unacceptable”.
He told Sky News: “I don’t want to see kids on coaches or families in cars queueing up and waiting unnecessarily long periods of time.”
Asked who should apologise for the situation, he added: “The port have made it clear that there is a difficult situation there, but there were some weather-related issues in the Channel as well, and there are going to be pinch points at peak times of the year, and small things can knock those best-laid plans off as well.”
A general strike in France in a row over pension reforms is also causing disruption.
Many flights to, from and over France have been grounded due to air traffic controllers joining the walkout.
British Airways axed at least 20 flights which would have used French airspace on Thursday.
Eurostar cancelled a train in both directions between London and Paris.
Protesters also blocked a road to terminal one of Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport.
Flights were unaffected but many passengers were forced to walk to and from the terminal.
Meanwhile, UK drivers have been warned to expect long delays on popular routes over the coming days.
The RAC is predicting that up to 17 million leisure trips by car will take place between Good Friday and Easter Monday.
Major roads in south-west England and some in the Home Counties are likely to experience the worst congestion on Good Friday.
Queues are likely to be increased by engineering work on the railways, including the closure of London Euston station over the bank holiday weekend.