The traffic heading to the Eurotunnel terminal was the prime concern on Sunday, the AA told the BBC.
“Due to Operation Brock [a queuing system to manage freight traffic on the M20], stacking lanes of lorries, which need to be cleared and the subsequent diversion of passenger traffic onto the A20 merging at the terminal, we are still seeing lengthy delays here,” said AA head of roads policy Jack Cousens, adding that the Port of Dover seemed “reasonably quiet” by contrast.
Dover was busy, but Folkestone was “chaos”, BBC reporter Simon Jones said earlier from the scene.
“Drivers are struggling to get to the Eurotunnel terminal. Part of the M20 is shut to park 600 lorries – so the rest of the traffic is being diverted onto other roads, and those roads simply can’t cope”, he reported.
Kent Resilience Forum says there are a couple of miles of queues of people waiting to get to the Eurotunnel terminal. Food and drink is being organised for those who are stuck. There are currently around 600 lorries parked on the M20.
— Simon Jones (@SimonJonesNews) July 24, 2022
The Kent Resilience Forum, the body that coordinates emergency planning for the county, also distributed food and drink to passengers stuck in their cars overnight.
Fortunately, once people make it to the terminal, they should ‘only’ have a couple of hours to wait to get on to a train, as these are running normally.
Car numbers were also expected to be slightly lower on Sunday – 7,000 compared with 8,500 on Saturday, Eurotunnel said.
You can see Eurotunnel travel updates here.
Due to part closure of M20, it may take you longer than normal to reach our UK terminal. Please check traffic updates and pack sufficient food and water for your journey. If you turn up late for your departure, we’ll get you on the next available service. https://t.co/OirFC3YsJq
— Eurotunnel Le Shuttle (@LeShuttle) July 24, 2022
P&O ferries said in a tweet that queues at the entrance had eased.
The time to clear passport control had reduced to 30 minutes from an hour earlier on Sunday.
#PODOVER – The queues at the entrance to the port are now easing. It is currently taking approximately half an hour to clear passport controls. Please rest assured if you miss your crossing you will be on the next available when you arrive at check in
— P&O Ferries Updates (@POferriesupdate) July 24, 2022
And the port of Dover said in a statement: “The backlog of tourist passengers that was generated on Friday has also now been cleared, along with successfully getting Saturday’s holidaymakers on their way.”
Around 72,000 passengers had been processed by Sunday morning with over 6,000 cars expected to cross over the whole day.
Authorities in the English port of Dover declared a major incident on Saturday and passengers were told to expect four-hour waits as British and French authorities trade blame for the post-Brexit travel problems.
On Saturday morning the BBC was reporting that authorities in Kent declared a major incident in and around Dover because of traffic problems, while P&O Ferries warned passengers to expect a three to four hour-wait to clear security checks.
Reporter Simon Jones said that at 8.44am there were already 3,000 lorries queuing on the M20 and traffic was building at the port.
P&0 Ferries said that anyone booked on a ferry from Dover should allow three to four hours of waiting time – people who miss their crossing will be transferred automatically onto the next available sailing.
#PODover Please be aware that there is heavy traffic at border control.If you're booked to travel today please allow at least 3-4hrs to clear the approach roads and security checks. Rest assured ,if you miss your sailing,you'll be on the first available once at check-in;
— P&O Ferries Updates (@POferriesupdate) July 23, 2022
While many people had to queue for six hours to get through border controls at Dover on Friday, Saturday could be even worse, according to Dover port chief executive Doug Bannister.
He told the BBC’s Today radio programme there could be further five to six-hour delays at the port again on Saturday.
“Yesterday, we processed about 8,500 cars going out. Today, we were predicted to be around 10,000, so it’s going to be a very busy day down here,” he said.
By 12.45pm on Saturday, the Port of Dover said more than 17,000 passengers had already gone through.
Queues for the port snaked through Dover and surrounding roads, stretching miles, with lorries backed up the M20 motorway leading to the town.
A traffic management system was rolled out on the M20 to manage the high volume of lorries backed up towards Dover.
That included closing parts of the motorway to non-freight traffic and diverting cars towards the port and the Eurotunnel by other routes.
Eurotunnel, meanwhile, said its train shuttle services for vehicles between nearby Folkestone and Coquelles in northern France were two hours behind schedule on Saturday.
However, the operator assured travellers they would be put on the next available service if they missed their scheduled departure.
You may experience a longer journey than normal today. We are doing our best to get you to France as quickly as we can. If you turn up late for your booked departure, we will get you on the next available service. For our latest travel information, visit https://t.co/OirFC3YsJq
— Eurotunnel Le Shuttle (@LeShuttle) July 23, 2022
The blame game
This weekend is the peak getaway for British holidaymakers since most English and Welsh schools broke up for the summer holidays last week.
On Friday, passengers faced waits of six hours to get into the port of Dover, a situation that port officials said was entirely the fault of French border officials.
“Despite the Port of Dover… 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,” the port said in a statement.
French officials, however, strongly refuted the British statement, saying that reports in the UK press “must be corrected”.
Georges-François Leclerc, Préfet of the Nord area of France, said that high demand due to the start of the UK school holidays had been anticipated with extra staffing levels, but that a technical incident in the Channel Tunnel meant that border agents travelling from France to work in Dover were one hour late on Friday morning.
He added that all agents were at their posts by 9.45 am, saying: “At this time, the traffic difficulties in the Channel Tunnel have been resolved, but very congested road traffic was still observed in British territory, with slowdowns spread over several kilometres.”
He said that “the fluidity of flows at the port of Dover is the joint responsibility of a set of actors, including shipping companies, the port of Dover and the British authorities.”
Le préfet de la zone de défense et de sécurité Nord, préfet de la région Hauts-de-France, préfet du Nord, communique : pic.twitter.com/b2rGJa7QUB
— Préfecture de la région Hauts-de-France et du Nord (@prefet59) July 22, 2022
This summer represents the first time that normal passenger numbers have been recorded since the end of the Brexit transition period in January 2021, which heralded a host of new regulations for travellers between France and the UK.
The Le Touquet agreement means that both French and British border checks are carried out before boarding in Dover.
To add to the problems, travel hubs around Europe have been reporting delays over the summer due to staff shortages.
Passengers on the Eurostar reported long queues at the London and Paris terminals, with the problems especially bad in London.
general heads up to my fellow breezy travellers that Eurostar is in fact correct to tell you to now arrive an hour before your train, I arrived exactly 30 minutes early as I did pre-pando and I am! either about to miss it or get on with minutes to spare
— Marie Le Conte (@youngvulgarian) July 21, 2022
On Friday, motorist Stephen Hutchinson told The Local: “We got to Folkestone at about 9am and then it took us six-and-a-half hours just to get to the port at Dover, the traffic was almost totally solid.
“We were also diverted off the motorway and through Dover, which was completely congested.
“Once we arrived at the port in the afternoon, all the lanes for checks seemed to be open; there were six lanes for French passport control checks and all of them were open and staffed – but after that, all the cars and vans were filtered into a single lane for check-in, so obviously that caused traffic to back up.”
A frequent traveller for work reasons, Stephen had returned to the UK the previous week with work gear and had to wait for four hours at Dover for an official to stamp his carnet – the post-Brexit paperwork requirement for people travelling with certain types of equipment.