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Holidaymakers face Easter disruption as coach firms asked to move Dover bookings

Thousands of holidaymakers face having their Easter trips disrupted as the Port of Dover is limiting Good Friday coach travel (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent

Thousands of holidaymakers face having their Easter trips disrupted as ferry operators are asking coach operators to amend some Good Friday ferry bookings from the Port of Dover.

The Kent port said in a statement that this is a result of its “urgent review” after “horrible” delays last weekend.

Good Friday is expected to be the busiest day of the Easter bank holiday weekend for coaches embarking on cross-Channel trips from the port.

The port said that, to “reduce coach volumes” on that day, ferry operators DFDS, Irish Ferries and P&O Ferries are “working with their coach customers to spread the travel” across the three-day period from Thursday to Saturday.

Additional “temporary border control infrastructure as contingency capacity for coach processing” has been installed, according to the statement.

Other measures aimed at reducing congestion this weekend include French border control authorities providing a full complement of officials to process outbound travellers despite coach volumes expected to be a third lower than a week ago, and drivers being advised not to arrive early so as to “avoid unnecessary bottlenecks”.

The port said: “All Port of Dover stakeholders are acutely aware that last weekend was a horrible situation for many travellers, including the elderly and schoolchildren.

“It is the top priority of all parties to ensure a better experience for travellers this weekend.

“These additional measures are intended to significantly improve traffic throughput and give travellers a better start to their holidays.”

Graham Vidler, chief executive of coach sector trade association the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), said: “We are pleased the Port of Dover have listened to our calls to bring in more frontier staff, but we still need ferry operators to improve their passenger advance information and for the port to introduce more coach priority measures.

“While the traffic this weekend through the port will be smoothed out with no limits on vehicles, coach operators will work with the ferry companies to adjust sailing times where that is possible.

“We hope the measures put in place at Dover will improve things for all road users and we will be watching the situation carefully to ensure continental coach travel through Dover can continue to thrive.”

Ferry operator DFDS issued an alert on Twitter which said: “We are expecting a busy weekend with the Easter getaway through the port.

“Please allow 120 minutes to complete border controls and check-in.”

It added: “We are expecting a busy weekend, possibly just as busy as last weekend.”

Delays at the port have been blamed on French border officials carrying out extra checks and stamping UK passports following Brexit.

Downing Street acknowledged that “new processes” introduced following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union contributed to last weekend’s disruption, while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said “of course Brexit has had an impact”.

It is not clear whether another strike by French workers on Thursday in the ongoing row over pension reforms will affect ferry passengers.

In response to one passenger on Twitter, P&O Ferries wrote: “We’re planning to sail to our regular schedule at the moment, but we’re still advising for passengers to prepare for a wait just in case.”