'Only the start': Holiday hell at Folkestone amid warnings of more summer gridlock

24 July 2022, 23:00 | Updated: 25 July 2022, 07:42

Folkestone became the epicentre of the travel chaos on Sunday
Folkestone became the epicentre of the travel chaos on Sunday. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Holidaymakers faced total gridlock and hours-long queues at Folkestone on Sunday, as the AA warns it could only be the start of the summer traffic chaos.

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Families embarking on journeys were told to bring food, water and entertainment for children as they faced queues of up to 21 hours.

Police got involved when HGV drivers tried to jump the queues, issuing over 100 fines to drivers.

Whilst traffic levels fell throughout the day, the AA has now warned there could be more disruption to come.

Read more: Move over, Dover: Folkestone becomes centre of 'holiday hell' amid huge Eurotunnel queues

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Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: "This has been an incredible weekend of traffic jams into Dover and Folkestone, and holidaymakers will have been frustrated and angry at the delays.

"Good progress has been made throughout the day and those waiting for more than five hours before reaching the check-in desk has fallen considerably. We hope that by tonight we should be back to usual traffic levels.

"However, we are concerned that we could be in for a repeat of this congestion across the summer."

There have been long queues all weekend
There have been long queues all weekend. Picture: Alamy

On Sunday the coastal town of Folkestone became the epicentre of getaway chaos that started at the end of the week when most schools in England and Wales broke up for summer.

It took the unwanted title from Dover, where traffic levels returned to normal on Sunday after two days of hours-long queues and congestion.

Kent Police said they had fined over 100 HGV drivers over the last 48 hours for attempting to jump the queue.

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Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said earlier: "Dover has now recovered, but Folkestone has become the hotspot of holiday hell.

"Drivers are now trying to find alternative routes down to the Eurotunnel terminal at J11a on the M20.

Some drivers queued for 21 hours
Some drivers queued for 21 hours. Picture: Alamy

"Holidaymakers are trying to use the M2 and then find ways to 'drop down' into the A20 and the terminal via the back roads.

"Drivers heading to Folkestone need to be prepared. We have seen that many are waiting for several hours before they get to the terminal, so all the pre-journey vehicle checks are key along with carrying plenty of food, water and entertainment for younger travellers."

Read more: Liz Truss calls for 'more action' from France as families face 11-hour queues in Dover

Manesh Luthra, a father of three, left Essex with his family at 4am on Saturday and got to the Eurotunnel terminal by 5.45am ahead of their 7.50am train.

But he told the BBC: "We joined the back of the queue for what was the worse 21 hours experienced.

"We moved metres in hours."

They considered packing the holiday in and other drivers were cutting in, he said.

Big queues built up around Folkestone
Big queues built up around Folkestone. Picture: Alamy

"It was savage, I was worried there would be an accident," he added.

Eventually the family got to France at 10pm, travelled for two more hours but had to stop in Rouen before carrying on to their holiday spot because they were exhausted.

"I'm calm now but at various points we all broke down," he said.

Read more: Holidaymakers' fury at Dover's 'critical incident' as six-hour queues blamed on French

On Sunday Eurotunnel wrote on Twitter: "You may experience a longer journey than normal today. We are doing our best to get you to France as quickly as we can.

"If you turn up late for your booked departure, we will get you on the next available service."

The coast-bound side of the M20 has been closed for non-freight traffic between junctions 8 and 12.

To the east of Folkestone, travellers hoping to use the ferries at Dover had a much better experience than fellow travellers on Friday and Saturday.

Queues spanning six hours were reported and one family was forced into 11 hours of traffic just to make the trip over the Channel.

British officials blamed French understaffing on Friday for the chaos, while other critics said it was a consequence of increased post-Brexit checks. Both elements were noted by Doug Bannister, the port's CEO.