Freight lobby urges France-UK talks to ease port queues

Logistics UK has called on French and British governments to address congested roads leading up to ports on both sides of the Channel, which have been blamed on Brexit.

Lorries wait in Dover to cross the Channel to France.
Lorries wait in Dover to cross the Channel to France. A leading logistics company has asked the French and British governments to hold talks to resolve traffic issues. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)

A leading UK freight lobby group has urged the British and French governments to hold talks to ease miles-long backups at Channel ports that have been blamed on Brexit.

Trucks have faced queues of up to six miles (10 kilometres) this month on the approach to Dover — Europe’s busiest port for roll-on, roll-off freight — with tailbacks also reported in northern France.

A number of factors have been blamed, including the UK government implementing further customs controls at the start of January, a year after the country quit the European Union’s single market and customs union.

Trucks now take longer to pass through Channel ports as their paperwork is verified.

“We’re urging both the French and UK governments to have constructive dialogue to ease the situation,” a spokesperson for Logistics UK, which represents an array of road, rail, sea and air operators, said on Monday.

“How much friction we will see in the system long term remains to be seen.”

The spokesperson added talks were “doubly important” because Britain is planning to implement new sanitary checks and passport control systems later this year, “which will undoubtedly add friction to the border transit and cause delays”.

Britain and the EU have been holding negotiations over post-Brexit issues, but they have been primarily focused on the complex situation in Northern Ireland.

The bottlenecks near Dover in southeast England have increased in recent months, with special traffic measures deployed on around half the days so far in January, including on Tuesday, according to officials.

Photos posted on social media in recent weeks have shown the lengthy lines of lorries parked up on one lane of the A20 dual carriageway approaching the port.

A Port of Dover spokeswoman confirmed officials had implemented the “well-established” traffic tools on its main approach road “on a number of occasions over the past week”.

She blamed the backlogs on “significant freight volumes”, several ferries being out of service for renovation and “external highway works impacting the port’s holding capacity” which come on top of further customs controls introduced on January 1.

A spokeswoman for the port of Calais in northern France, where there have also been reports of long queues, said there was “no problem of fluidity” there on Tuesday.

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‘IT problems’ blamed for cancellation of flights from French airports

The French holiday weekend of Ascension has been hit by travel problems after Easyjet cancelled dozens of flights.

'IT problems' blamed for cancellation of flights from French airports

Easyjet announced on Thursday that it would have to cancel several dozen flights, many of which were set to depart from French airports like Paris Charles de Gaulle, Lyon, Toulouse and Nice.

The British budget airline tweeted an apology to the customers impacted, explaining that ‘IT system issues’ were to blame. 

In total, 200 flights across Europe were affected, confirmed the British newspaper The Independent.

Several customers expressed frustration at the hours-long wait times, many taking to Twitter to vent, like this user below:

So what happened?

Easyjet has not been very specific about the issue aside from explaining that the root of the problem was a computer system failure. They announced quickly that they were working to restore their systems and that in the meantime customers should continue to check Flight Tracker in order to verify the status of their flight prior to leaving for the airport.

While flights were set to resume on Friday, Thursday’s cancellations have had a domino effect, bringing about further delays and cancellations for flights originally scheduled for Friday. 

If you have flights booked, it is best, as stated above, to keep an eye on Flight Tracker in order to avoid potentially long wait-times at the airport.

Will passengers be compensated?

While Easyjet initially explained the IT problem as “beyond [their] control” and an “exceptional circumstance,” the company eventually retracted these statements and released a new statement saying that “Customers can request compensation in accordance with the regulations.” Here is the link to their website to find out more.

If you plan to request a refund, be advised that under European regulation for air passenger rights, travellers should be entitled to compensation between €260 to €410 per person depending on the duration of the flight, with the latter representing flight distances of over 1,500 km. Read more here.

Since Brexit, passengers departing from the UK may no longer be covered by the European compensation rules.