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UK-France: Warnings of weekend of travel chaos

Anyone with a trip between France and the UK planned is being warned to leave plenty of time after long queues - up to six hours in some cases - to board transport.

UK-France: Warnings of weekend of travel chaos
Illustration photo of cars queuing at the ferry port in Dover, England. Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

This weekend sees the end of the school year for many English and Welsh schools, while French schools broke up at the start of July, meaning the summer holiday season is in full swing.

But unfortunately for anyone planning a getaway, there are major problems expected on almost all forms of transport

Ferry

The UK port of Dover on Friday declared a ‘critical incident’ and warned of six-hour queues to clear security and board ferries.

Port chief executive Doug Bannister told BBC radio that “we’ve got a critical incident under way”.

“I would consider holding off heading for the port at this point in time until more is known,” he advised those with ferry tickets booked for Friday.

Dover executives blamed the French for not providing adequate staffing on one of the busiest days of the year.

Travellers reported traffic jams that backed up into Dover town centre and onto the M20 motorway.

Motorist Stephen Hutchinson told The Local: “It has taken us six and a half hours to travel roughly 10km from Folkestone to the ferry port at Dover, just solid traffic.

“We were diverted by the police off the motorway through Dover town centre which was absolutely jammed. After six and a half hours we have got to the ferry port but still haven’t been through security or started boarding.”

He added: “I don’t know what the problem is but from what I can see all the lanes are open for the checks from French officials.”

There are no reported problems at other UK ports, or at French ferry ports.

Eurotunnel

Passengers travelling from Folkestone to Calais by the Eurotunnel have also reported long delays to board.

Eurotunnel officials said on Friday afternoon that the current wait time to board was 3-4 hours, saying the cause was congestion on the M20 – essentially a knock-on effect from the queues for the port of Dover – coupled with the after-effects of an earlier crash.

Services from Calais are boarding as normal.

Eurostar

Passengers travelling on the Eurostar have been reporting for several weeks that wait times to board are now much longer, and passengers are advised to allow 60-90 minutes to clear border checks before boarding.

Over the past month queues have been reported at both Paris Gare du Nord and London St Pancras, but the most severe problems have been reported in London.

Flights

The airport chaos seen in the UK at the start of the summer seems to have abated slightly, but passengers are still advised to arrive at the airport with plenty of time.

In better news though, a planned strike by French Ryanair crews has been called off after unions reached a pay deal with the airline. Additionally, a strike planned at London-Heathrow airport that would have impacted Air France and other regional flights has also been cancelled after the union representing Aviation Fuel Services (AFS) announced “that a fresh pay offer was now on the table after talks,” according to the BBC.

Roads

Once you arrive in France there could be more traffic jams – there are red traffic warnings in place for many of the roads this weekend as French families head off on holidays.

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STRIKES

UPDATE: French air traffic controllers cancel strike action in September

The main union representing French air traffic controllers has cancelled calls for a strike from September 28th to 30th, after "reaching an agreement with their supervisory ministry."

UPDATE: French air traffic controllers cancel strike action in September

SNCTA, the main union for air traffic controllers said this week that they had lifted their calls for a three-day strike at the end of September after coming to an agreement with France Ministry of Transport. 

In a statement on its website, the SNCTA said “In view of the concrete progress made on the demands, the SNCTA is lifting its [strike] notice for September 28th, 29th and 30th. The strong mobilisation of September 16th was necessary and instrumental for reaching this conciliation in a very constrained calendar. Thank you to all of you!” 

The French ministry of transport has not yet commented on the above agreement or lifting of the strike.

The International Air Transport Association tweeted their support for the SNCTA’s decision to cancel further industrial action, calling Friday’s strike “unnecessary.”

The association also urged the European Union to implement a “Single European Sky.” This reform, which was put forward almost 20 years ago, has not yet reached fruition. It intends to shift the current system of air traffic organisation away from national borders and toward a “coherent zone” in order to reduce emissions and save both time and money.

The strike on September 16th left over 1,000 flights in France grounded, as well as widespread delays and over 2,400 flight cancellations across Europe. 

The SNCTA mobilised for wage increases due to the rising cost of living, in addition to an acceleration of recruitment in order to anticipate a wave of retirements. After Friday’s action, the union had called for further strikes from September 28th to 30th before reaching an agreement with their supervisory ministry. 

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