British holidaymakers have been warned to allow several hours to get through the Channel border at Dover and Folkestone, as the UK and France continue to argue over who is to blame for the gridlock.
A Port of Dover spokesman said on Saturday morning there is still a “long way to go” to clear the backlog of vehicles on the M20 in Kent and their “thoughts are with those who were caught up” in six-hour queues on Friday.
They said 17,215 cars had been processed so far today, far exceeding Friday’s 8,500.
P&O ferries is recommending travellers allow up to four hours to pass through checks, admitting some could end up missing their scheduled departures, but would be allowed on the next one available.
Queue times of up to seven hours are also being reported on the M20 approach to the Eurotunnel at Folkestone.
One family who spoke to Sky News said they had being queuing for the tunnel for three hours – and only had a mile left – but it was expected to take another four hours.
Seventh hour of queuing for Eurotunnel – train long gone
Sky News producer Hannah Stott is stuck waiting to for the Eurotunnel in Kent.
“My family and I are on our seventh hour of the journey to the Eurotunnel in Folkestone to France.
“Our train went long ago and it would be exaggerating to say we are crawling along.
“The majority of the time we aren’t moving at all, then there is great excitement when the traffic budges a metre.
“There is a perfect storm of reasons creating this mess. One of the main roads in, the M20, has been closed. All the traffic is packed into one route from all directions.
“The police also say the French are doing all COVID checks and passport checks their end, making it slow.
“It’s getting hotter in our cars by the minute, morale has been good considering. There is a Tesco which is like mirage on the horizon to us all.
“A toilet, food, drinks. It was handing out ice lollies to people at one point.
“People are playing ball games, sitting out in deck chairs and relaying their travel stories to each other. All keeping as positive as possible with the hope of a summer holiday at the end of this.
“To think I was smug I wasn’t flying, avoiding the airport chaos.
“We are told we have another five hours or so from this point and then there is further delay once at the terminal.
“Do you give up? When do you give up? Questions we are all asking.”
French MP for Calais, Pierre-Henri Dumont claims that the chaos is down to increased passport checks after Brexit and a lack of investment in Dover’s port.
The government argues French border staff need to up capacity.
“The port of Dover is too small for this amount of people,” Mr Dumont told Sky News, refuting British claims there were not enough French staff at the border on Friday.
“Two years ago the Tory British government decided not to give money to the Port of Dover to increase the number of kiosks there for French police.
“Because of Brexit we need to have more checks on passports, so this is what your future will look like for years to come if you take no action.”
On the dispute over who’s fault it is, he said of UK politicians, particularly those involved in the Tory leadership contest: “They are not talking about facts, they are talking about fake news, blaming French authorities for a problem that is not on us.”
‘Appalling’ start to summer holidays
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has blamed French authorities for Friday’s “unacceptable” delays, calling on them to bring in more staff to handle the demand.
“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,” she said. We will be working with the French authorities to find a solution.”
Speaking to Sky News on Saturday morning, when lines started forming around 4am, Conservative MP for Dover Natalie Elphicke described Friday’s disruption as “appalling”.
“It was a dreadful start to that summer getaway yesterday and an appalling situation for residents in Dover too. There simply weren’t enough French border police,” she said.
“Today I am hearing the French workers have turned up and they are expected to be manning the booths at capacity but there will be a knock-on effect as there always is when there is an issue that has happened at the ports.
“We are expecting long, long delays today, traffic has already been building up around the town and it is going to be a very serious situation on the roads again in Kent today.”
Roads to watch for delays over the weekend
- M25 anticlockwise Junction 4 Bromley to Dartford
- M4 eastbound Junction 30 Cardiff East to Junction 24 for the A449 Monmouth
- M25 anticlockwise Junction 17 Maple Cross to Junction 12 for the M3
- A303 westbound past Stonehenge
- M25 clockwise Junction 7 M23 to Junction 16 for the M40
- M5 southbound Junction 15 Almondsbury Interchange to Junction 23 for the A38 Bridgwater
- Source: RAC
On Saturday a Port of Dover spokesperson said: “The Port of Dover is relieved that French border staff (Police Aux Frontieres) have been fully mobilised at French border controls in Dover (known as ‘juxtaposed controls’) on Saturday morning in order to get holidaymakers and freight vehicles moving and to relieve the disruption on the Dover and wider Kent community.
“Today is going to be very busy, with more UK tourists heading to Dover in order to travel to France. Passengers should keep in touch with their ferry operators for the latest information on their sailings.
“We will, together with our ferry operators, support the efforts of all partners to get people on their way as quickly as possible.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he is “working closely” with the French transport minister Clement Beaune, adding: “I welcome his commitment that both Britain and France will work closely to minimise further disruption so people can get away quickly.”
Mr Beaune re-tweeted the statement on Twitter.
Britons are being warned that every Friday and Saturday of the summer holidays could be extremely busy for motorists, as that is when holiday rentals switch over.
Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: “The Summer getaway is now in full swing and the major holiday routes are starting to fill.
“The South East has been overwhelmed with travellers hoping to hop onto the continent with ease, but that has rapidly turned into a nightmare.
“One that is now being shared by the locals as drivers try to find alternative roads so they can keep the wheels turning.”