Dover chaos: Brits warned traffic jams could be worse today

Cars queue at the check-in at the Port of Dover in Kent
A second day of gridlock at the Port of Dover on Saturday (Picture: PA)

Anyone hoping to leave the Port of Dover today has been warned to expect even worse delays than the travel chaos seen on Friday.

Some 10,000 cars were expected at the port on today, with more than 13,000 passengers said to be ‘on their way’ before 10am.

Holidaymakers and lorry drivers faced gridlocked roads around Dover yesterday with six-hour queues and bumper-to-bumper traffic.

P&O Ferries has advised passengers travelling today to allow at least five hours to get through the security checks, adding that it expects Saturday to be ‘just as busy’ as yesterday.

The warnings come as French and British officials continue to argue over who is to blame for the chaos, which has coincided with the start of the school summer holidays, one of the busiest periods for foreign travel from the UK.

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: ‘As the schools closed their doors fully yesterday, Saturday could prove busier still this weekend.

‘Drivers should continue to expect disruption and delays on major holiday routes to the south-west, eastern coast and ports of Dover and Folkestone.

‘While many have decided to go at the start of the summer holidays, between now and the beginning of September when schools return, each Friday and Saturday will be busy on our roads.

‘This is because these are the main switchover days for holiday lets.’

Traffic Jams leading to the ferry port in Dover, Kent
A holidaymaker stares down the queues on Friday (Picture: PA)
Probably not the start to a weekend adventure these holidaymakers were hoping for (Picture: PA)
Queues on the M20 near Folkestone in Kent this morning as delays at the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel continue to effect journeys (Picture: PA)

Foreign secretary Liz Truss has sought to blame France for the delays, saying the queues were ‘unacceptable’, and ‘entirely avoidable’.

In a statement, the Tory leadership hopeful said: ‘This awful situation should have been entirely avoidable and is unacceptable.

‘We need action from France to build up capacity at the border to limit any further disruption for British tourists and to ensure this appalling situation is avoided in future.

‘We will be working with the French authorities to find a solution.’

Cars queue at the check-in at the Port of Dover in Kent
Long queues of traffic heading for the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel this morning (Picture: PA)

Meanwhile, Pierre-Henri Dumont, Republican MP for Calais, said the problems at the port will reoccur ‘because of Brexit’.

He told BBC News: ‘This is an aftermath of Brexit. We have to run more checks than before.’

Mr Dumont also said the Port of Dover is ‘too small’ and there are too few kiosks due to lack of space.

The Port of Dover has attacked French authorities for ‘woefully inadequate’ border control staffing.

The chief executive of the port said being ‘let down’ by poor resourcing at the French border was ‘immensely frustrating’.

People make their way to the cruise terminal in Dover in Kent on Friday as no taxis or buses are available due to the traffic jams (Picture: PA)

Doug Bannister stopped short of guaranteeing the backlog would clear in the coming days, but pledged that officials are doing all they can to address issues.

He told BBC News: ‘To be let down in the way that we have with inadequate resources and slow processes through the border is just immensely frustrating.

‘We’ve shared in granular detail, on an hour-by-hour basis, the amount of traffic we were anticipating, so it was completely known what we needed to have in place at the French border.’

He said Saturday is also likely to be busy, adding it is ‘just the start of a very busy summer for us’.

Millions of people are expected to embark on holidays via the Port of Dover today (Picture: PA)

In an update today, port authorities said they were ‘relieved that French border staff (Police Aux Frontieres) have now been fully mobilised at French border controls in Dover’, but warned: ‘There is of course a way to go to clear the backlog of waiting passengers.’

The statement added: ‘Today is going to be very busy, with more UK tourists heading to Dover in order to travel to France.’

Mr Bannister said he welcomed the ‘commitment shown by both French and UK authorities to resolve the issue’, and said the required staffing levels must be maintained for the rest of the summer ‘so that we can begin to return to the positive experience we had planned for those going on their well-earned breaks’.

In a tweet, the Port of Dover Travel account said: ‘At 0945 #PortofDover has got 13,261 passengers on their way so far today.

‘We are working hard with our partners to get all passengers on their way as quickly as possible.’

Passengers embarking on cross-Channel sailings from Dover must pass through French border checks before they can board a ferry.

The port said in a statement that it had increased the number of border control booths by 50%.

It went on: ‘Regrettably, the PAF (police aux frontieres) resource has been insufficient and has fallen far short of what is required to ensure a smooth first weekend of the peak summer getaway period.’

On Friday evening, the French Embassy in the UK said French border checks in Dover are ‘operating in full capacity’.

It said the French authorities are cooperating closely with their British counterparts and all stakeholders responsible for the traffic in the Port of Dover ‘to enable travellers to make their crossings under the best possible conditions’.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

For more stories like this, check our news page.