25 July 2022

Busy start to week at Dover amid fears for ‘vulnerable’ summer

25 July 2022

The Port of Dover is experiencing a busy start to the week but there has been no return so far of the severe disruption seen in recent days.

P&O Ferries said queues “picked up” on Monday morning, and it took an hour for passengers to clear French passport control.

This is a fraction of the time spent by people on Friday as bumper-to-bumper traffic stretching for miles marred the journeys of tens of thousands of families at the start of the school summer holidays.

That was blamed on a staffing shortage at French border control and a serious crash on the M20.

A spokesman for the Kent port said: “The Port of Dover is pleased to report that traffic is flowing normally this morning.

“There is no Port of Dover traffic being held in Brock on the M20, the Dover TAP system on the A20 is not currently required, and all traffic is contained in the port with local roads operating normally.

“The French border is well staffed and there is minimal dwell time to get through the port and on to the ferries.”

Nearly 142,000 people travelled through the port over the weekend.

Toby Howe, senior highways manager at Kent County Council and tactical lead at Kent Resilience Forum, said the queues at the Port of Dover were “normal for a Monday morning”.

Basically it’s a very vulnerable situation, it takes very little to cause further issues

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that next weekend is likely to be “very busy”.

Mr Howe said: “It’s the second busiest getaway weekend of the summer holidays.

“As we’ve just found out the weekend just gone, traffic numbers travelling across the Channel were back to pre-pandemic levels and with the increased checks it is slower to get through, so it takes very little to cause those tailbacks.”

On what the rest of the summer could bring, he said: “Basically it’s a very vulnerable situation, it takes very little to cause further issues.”

National Highways reopened the coastbound M20 between junctions 9 and 11 in Kent shortly after 1am on Monday.

But the motorway remains closed to non-freight traffic between junctions 8 and 9 as part of Operation Brock, which is in place due to the difficulties at Dover.

There were also long queues on the roads approaching Eurotunnel’s Folkestone terminal over the weekend.

Lorries queuing during Operation Brock on the M20 near Ashford in Kent on Saturday (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)

John Keefe, director of public affairs for Eurotunnel owner Getlink, said “our services ran on time”, but there was “much more congestion on the roads”.

Asked what can be done to prevent the issues from reoccurring, he told BBC One’s Breakfast that passport checks could be “moved online”.

He said: “A lot of modern technology exists that would reduce the reliance on staff to conduct those processes in situ.

“There’s a lot of work that can be done around improving the border.”

Mr Keefe added “we need to have more resilience in the motorway network” and better rail connections to Folkestone.

He said: “There are definitely solutions. These solutions are not new. They’ve been on the table for many, many years.

“But hopefully something like this will actually focus attention.”

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