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More queues at Dover amid fears for ‘vulnerable’ summer

Cars queue at the check-in at the Port of Dover in Kent at the weekend as many families embark on getaways following the start of summer holidays for many schools in England and Wales. Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA

By Neil Lancefield and Rebecca Speare-Cole, PA

Queues are building at the Port of Dover amid fears that the severe disruption seen in recent days could return to Kent throughout the summer.

Ferry operator DFDS told passengers that there were “queues of around an hour” for French border checks on Monday morning, and to “allow a minimum of 120 minutes before your departure to complete all controls”.

P&O Ferries wrote on Twitter: “The queues have picked up and it is taking approximately one hour to clear passport control.”

Passengers were forced to wait for several hours on Friday as bumper-to-bumper traffic stretching for miles marred the journeys of tens of thousands of families at the start of the school summer holidays.

This was blamed on a staffing shortage at French border control and a serious crash on the M20 motorway.

Toby Howe, senior highways manager at Kent County Council and tactical lead at Kent Resilience Forum, said the current queues at the Port of Dover were “normal for a Monday morning”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that next weekend is likely to be “very busy”.

Mr Howe said: “It’s the second busiest getaway weekend of the summer holidays.

“As we’ve just found out the weekend just gone, traffic numbers travelling across the Channel were back to pre-pandemic levels and with the increased checks it is slower to get through, so it takes very little to cause those tailbacks.”

On what the rest of the summer could bring, he said: “Basically it’s a very vulnerable situation, it takes very little to cause further issues.”

National Highways re-opened the coastbound M20 between Junctions 9 and 11 in Kent shortly after 1am on Monday.

But the motorway remains closed to non-freight traffic between Junctions 8 and 9 as part of Operation Brock, which is in place due to the difficulties at Dover.

There were also long queues on the roads approaching Eurotunnel’s Folkestone terminal over the weekend.

John Keefe, director of public affairs for Eurotunnel owner Getlink, said “our services ran on time”, but there was “much more congestion on the roads”.

Asked what can be done to prevent the issues from reoccurring, he told BBC One’s Breakfast that passport checks could be “moved online”.

He said: “A lot of modern technology exists that would reduce the reliance on staff to conduct those processes in situ.

“There’s a lot of work that can be done around improving the border.”

Mr Keefe went on to state that “we need to have more resilience in the motorway network” and better rail connections to Folkestone.

He added: “There are definitely solutions. These solutions are not new. They’ve been on the table for many, many years.

“But hopefully something like this will actually focus attention.”

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