Holidaymakers face 90-minute waits at Port of Dover with longer queues expected
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 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.
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.
It comes after chaotic scenes at the port last weekend when thousands of people were delayed, reportedly by up to 14 hours.
Nichola Mallon, of Logistics UK, talking about lorry drivers using the port, told Sky News: “If they’re waiting considerable periods of time, that becomes a driver welfare issue and so that’s why we’re working very closely with the Kent resilience forum and to make sure that we can minimise delays.
“In fact, I have a number of meetings today as we closely monitor the situation and make sure that contingency plans are in place if needed, and people are working very hard on that.
“Our message to our members would be to check with your ferry operator to make sure that you’re aware of the latest guidance, make sure that you’ve completed all your paperwork before you head there and have supplies there, just in case, and make sure that you leave enough time to accommodate any delays.”
At one point on Thursday, there were queues of “approximately 90 minutes” for passport checks by French officials at the port as the Easter rush kicked off amid “high volumes of traffic”, DFDS said.
Delays at Dover have been blamed on French border officials carrying out extra checks and stamping UK passports following Brexit.
Port officials said they held an “urgent review” with ferry operators and the French authorities in an attempt to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s delays.
A general strike in France in a row over pension reforms is also causing disruption.
About 400,000 people joined a protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms in Paris on Thursday, the French CGT union reportedly said.