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

22 July 2022, 07:57 | Updated: 22 July 2022, 19:36

Queues of traffic build in Dover amid ‘critical incident’

By Asher McShane

The Port of Dover has declared a "critical incident" and blamed French border staff as huge traffic queues build up, frustrating holidaymakers hoping to get away for their summer breaks.

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Queues several miles long built up and long queues of traffic snaked into Dover itself.

Annoyed passengers told LBC how they had set off at 5am just to get stuck in traffic, while another who travelled with children vowed they would never take the ferry again.

Today is expected to be one of the busiest days on the roads in the UK as summer holidays start for millions of kids.

The chief executive at the Port of Dover has declared a 'critical incident' at the port as drivers face extremely long queues.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the delays and queues are "unacceptable", calling it an "entirely avoidable" situation.

In a statement, she 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."

Huge queues built up at Dover early this morning on the first day of the summer break
Huge queues built up at Dover early this morning on the first day of the summer break. Picture: Twitter/Getty

Staffing at French border control at the Port of Dover is “woefully inadequate” causing holidaymakers to be stuck in long queues, the Kent port said.

One frustrated holidaymaker Manuel told LBC: "We've been stuck here, we left the house at about 5.15am this morning.

"We're from the Midlands so we knew it was going to be at least three or four hours but it's pretty amazing how every route - we've been using our maps trying to find all sorts of different ways in.

"But everywhere is just completely blocked."

Holidaymakers stuck in queues at Port of Dover reveal frustrations

Amy had been waiting for five hours in the queue. "It's crazy when you’ve got kids with you. They're getting fed up.

"You just do your best to entertain them.

"It's the first time and the last time we're going on the ferry."

She added: "Something needs doing to sort it out, I don't know whose fault it is but from what I've heard it's the French side. I don't know."

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Eric said: "We've been waiting for two hours, the last mile. So from the last roundabout, we did the last mile for two hours.

"I'm very frustrated - I can't get on holiday. We tried to get on, hopefully they let us on the next available ferry."

The port of Dover said in a statement: “Despite the Port of Dover and key stakeholders… preparing over several months for the busy summer period, we are deeply frustrated that the resource at the French border overnight and early this morning has been woefully inadequate to meet our predicted demand.

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“Regrettably, the PAF resource from this morning has been insufficient and has fallen far short of what is required to ensure a smooth first weekend of the peak summer getaway period.

“The current situation… could and should have been avoided.”

P&O Ferries told passengers to allow six hours to board.

They said in a statement: "Please be aware that there is heavy traffic at border control in the port of Dover.

Queues in Dover as holidaymakers head to France

"If you are booked to travel today please allow at least 6hrs to clear all security checks.

"Rest assured, if you miss your sailing, you'll be on the first available once at check-in."

There were similar scenes at the port last weekend
There were similar scenes at the port last weekend. Picture: Twitter/@Lordofthevan

They said on Twitter: “Dover-Calais: Due to expected queues, please allow up to 4 hours to complete border control & check-in.

“Have documents ready to assist border control checks and reduce queuing time. If delayed, you will be accommodated on the next available sailing. “

One lorry driver wrote: "It’s the french slowing everything down like they usually do in Dover, only operating 3 booths at moment….port is empty but horrendous queues and traffic approaching Dover."

Huge queues seen at Port of Dover as people head over to France

Dover council issued a warning of disruption last night: "This is the peak weekend for the summer getaway and all cross-Channel routes are expected to be very busy. Please be prepared for potential disruption."

Ian Hartwright posted on Twitter: “Well done P&O for boarding us with moments to spare. Pride of Canterbury virtually empty because of the new Brexit border. Thousands stuck in Dover thanks to Farage, Johnson and the ERG.”

One holidaymaker wrote: “Traffic control is a shambles in the port. Took me 3.5 hours from a car park in Dover to the port and now been sat in a lane for 1 hour while other lanes have emptied multiple times. Shocking guys.”

Another posted online: "Sat trying to get through border control for 1.5 hours. Lots of drink and food in car but where does my 6 year old go to the toilet. Hardly the French’s fault."

A Dover resident said: "It’s a joke, I live in Dover and I cannot get to work due to gridlock! Where are the police? Shambles!!!"

Another Dover resident posted: “The whole town is at a standstill and you can hear the anger of locals on social media. Dover is gridlocked at 7am. Residents cannot go to work, shops etc we’re housebound.

“Stop blaming the French and use the word Brexit, which is the real reason. Port traffic should not be allowed in Dover which is now gridlocked.”

"Why are Kent police allowing port traffic into Dover? The whole town is gridlocked. Traffic should be queuing on M20 or M2, not into the town."

A local business owner said: “As a Dover business, we are being adversely effected by the disruption as our customer either can’t get to us or believe they can’t so staying away.”

Another frustrated resident posted on Twitter: "I can’t get off my drive because Dover is a car park again due to holiday traffic? Same Friday EVERY year."

Meanwhile, fuel price protests are set to cause disruption during what is expected to be the busiest summer getaway on the roads in at least eight years.

Avon and Somerset Police warned motorists that "slow-moving roadblocks" are planned on parts of the M4, M5, M32 and A38 on Friday morning.

An image posted on Facebook group Fuel Price Stand Against Tax suggests demonstrations will be held "nationwide", including in Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool, London and Manchester.

Drivers were urged by Superintendent Tony Blatchford of Avon and Somerset Police to consider "alternative travel plans" due to the pump price protests.

He said: "Our protest liaison team has been engaging with the organiser so we can inform the public of the likely disruption and help to minimise it.

"Nevertheless, drivers can expect journey times will likely be longer than normal, especially on motorways, which often tend to be at their busiest at this time of year.

"We advise motorists to consider any alternative travel plans available and ensure they are suitably prepared in case they are delayed."

With most schools in England and Wales breaking up for summer this week, the RAC said an estimated 18.8 million leisure trips are planned in the UK between Friday and Monday.

That is the most since the company began tracking summer getaway numbers in 2014.

Transport analytics company Inrix believes the M25 - London's orbital motorway - could see some of the worst jams due to the summer getaway, singling out the stretches between Bromley and the Dartford Crossing; Maple Cross and the M3; and the M23 to the M40.

The A303 near Stonehenge, Wiltshire, the M4 between Cardiff and Newport in South Wales, and the M5 south of Bristol are also likely to see queuing traffic.