Port of Dover traffic: how long are the queues today, what is causing the delays - should you pack supplies?
Dover declared a “critical” incident last weekend and more disruption is expected over Easter break
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Holidaymakers are facing up to 90-minute waits at the Port of Dover, with larger queues expected in the early afternoon.
As the Easter getaway weekend kicked off on Good Friday (7 April) morning, large numbers of cars were arriving at the Kent port, but traffic was moving and ferries were sailing well. P&O Ferries and operator DFDS were reporting delays of around 60 minutes to the port’s entrance.
Drivers have been advised to bring supplies in case they are left waiting for hours.
Passengers arriving in Kent faced queues of over an hour and a half on Thursday (6 April). A critical incident was declared at the Port of Dover last weekend as travellers faced huge queues due to poor weather and lengthy processing periods. Thousands of holidaymakers queued for up to 16 hours.
Approximately 20,000 people were caught up in the huge backlog as they waited to have their passports processed at border control. Those on coaches - including thousands of children heading to the French Alps on ski trips - were the worst affected.
But is disruption expected this weekend, what is the cause and what can you expect?
How long are the queues at Port of Dover?
There are queues of around 90 minutes at the port on Friday - with longer queues expected later in the afternoon.
Passengers urged to pack supplies in case of queues
Doug Bannister, chief executive of the Port of Dover, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “First of all, the weather’s clear, the ferries are sailing well, and all that sort of stuff, this weekend was always scheduled to be about 30% lighter than last weekend, today being the busier day. What we did is we worked with our ferry operators to try and spread the demand across the three days rather than all on this day.
“I know that that’s challenging for the coach industry because they have itineraries that they want to maintain, but they’ve worked with the ferry operators to be able to do that, and that’s been successful. We’ve also installed a new facility to expand our processing at the borders for coaches, that’s operational, I just saw one goes through in just shy of 10 minutes.
“It’s going to be a busy day, we’re running probably about an hour to an hour and a half to get through border controls at the moment, and we will peak through probably early afternoon, and then it will start to slow down after that.”
He said holidaymakers should bring drinks, food and entertainment for children if they are arriving at the port from 10am.
What is causing delays at Dover today?
Delays at the port have been blamed on French border officials carrying out extra checks and stamping UK passports following Brexit. Port officials said they held a “urgent review” with ferry operators and the French authorities in an attempt to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s delays.
Is the disruption due to Brexit?
Brexit could have contributed to the recent chaos at Dover, the government has admitted. When questioned over whether Brexit was one of the factors for long queues last weekend, Downing Street suggested that the “new processes” put in place after the UK’s departure from the European Union could have played a part.
Will there be disruptions over Easter?
There are fears travellers at Dover will face more disruption after chaotic scenes last weekend when thousands of people were delayed, reportedly by up to 14 hours. The RAC is predicting that up to 17 million leisure trips by car will take place between Good Friday and Easter Monday.
Major roads in south-west England and some in the Home Counties are likely to experience the worst congestion on Good Friday. Queues are likely to be increased by engineering work on the railways, including the closure of London Euston station over the bank holiday weekend.
Ferry companies are asking coach operators booked on sailings on Good Friday – expected to be the busiest day for outbound Easter travel from Dover – to “spread the travel” across the three-day period from Thursday (6 April) to Saturday (8 April) .
Additional “temporary border control infrastructure” has also been installed.
What has the government said?
Transport minister Richard Holden described last weekend’s conditions at Dover as “unacceptable”. He told Sky News: “I don’t want to see kids on coaches or families in cars queueing up and waiting unnecessarily long periods of time.”
Asked who should apologise for the situation, he added: “The port have made it clear that there is a difficult situation there, but there were some weather-related issues in the Channel as well, and there are going to be pinch points at peak times of the year, and small things can knock those best-laid plans off as well.”