News, Culture & Society

Tourists face travel chaos lasting ALL year – as delays spread from ferries to Eurostar trains

Travel chaos in France extended to Eurostar services between Paris and London last night as stranded passengers endured ‘a nightmare’ and ‘bedlam’ because of cancelled and delayed trains.

Chaotic scenes of bumper-to-bumper traffic stretching for miles marred the beginning of the getaway as schools broke up for the holidays.

Holidaymakers were ‘treated worse than cattle’ and forced to sleep in their cars during traffic jams as the Eurotunnel became the latest ‘hotspot of holiday hell’ on Sunday.

As Britain’s summer getaway entered its third day of travel misery, families were still stuck in 21-hour delays which saw them stranded in their cars overnight in queues at Folkestone.

Children changed into their pyjamas and brushed their teeth on the roadside while desperate passengers were forced to use the verge as a public toilet.

The debacle began on Friday morning when a ‘critical incident’ was declared at Dover where motorists faced waits of more than seven hours. The two days of gridlock at the start of the busiest school holiday season for years was blamed on a lack of French border guards after only six out of 12 booths were initially manned.

British officials accused France of failing to sufficiently staff the border, while the French blamed the delays on additional checks brought on by Brexit.

Although the tourist traffic at Dover had been cleared by the early hours of yesterday morning, the situation around Folkestone remained dire.

Drivers were stuck in tailbacks after a stretch of the M20 was turned into a holding area to manage the backlog of some 600 lorries – with some delayed for up to 18 hours – waiting to cross at Dover.

Former Cabinet minister John Redwood MP told the Telegraph: ‘If France carries on blocking entry people should go somewhere else on holiday. It’s no fun to spend seven hours in a traffic jam. Glad my summer holiday is booked for England. Go somewhere that welcomes you.’

Videos produced by those caught up in Sunday night’s disruption showed thousands packed into the overflowing departure lounge at Gare du Nord, in the French capital.

Many were told that they would have to spend the night in Paris, and even then, there was no guarantee of a place on a train home to Britain on Monday.

At the height of the problems on Sunday night, only four out of nine Eurostar ticket booths were open at Gare du Nord.

Among those forced to stay in France, rather than returning to their jobs in London on Monday, were cycling friends Marc Bull, Tom Holme, James Speak and Rohan Gokhale.

They had arrived in Dieppe by ferry on Friday, for a weekend that included an arduous pedal to Paris on their Brompton bikes.

Frustrated Eurostar travellers (pictured) say there were over 1,000 people queueing from around 10am to 11am yesterday

‘We were all due on a train on Sunday, but it’s been cancelled, and we all have to stay here,’ said Mr Gokhale, 29.

‘I was due back at work in the City on Monday morning, but there’s not even a guarantee of a train during the day.’

Mr Bull, 39, said: ‘We assume we’ll all have to pay for our own hotel rooms in Paris tonight, but we’ll need to go and speak to Eurostar.’

The group, who are all members of the East London Hockey Club, were – like many caught up in the chaos – unaware of why their trains had been cancelled.

They did not get as far as the departure lounge before Eurostar closed its shutters at the Gare du Nord on Sunday.

Those left inside in the departure lounge included British actor Daniel Robinson, who said: ‘Three hours delayed, possibly four, could have to stay here tonight, this is bedlam.’

And the AA branded Folkestone the new ‘hotspot of holiday hell’ as people faced lengthy delays on approach to the Eurotunnel.

The motoring organisation said long waits at Folkestone had ‘fallen considerably’ by late afternoon but raised concerns that such congestion could be repeated this summer.

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: ‘This has been an incredible weekend of traffic jams into Dover and Folkestone, and holidaymakers will have been frustrated and angry at the delays.

‘Good progress has been made throughout the day and those waiting for more than five hours before reaching the check-in desk has fallen considerably. We hope that by tonight we should be back to usual traffic levels.

‘However, we are concerned that we could be in for a repeat of this congestion across the summer.’

It followed similar scenes on the English Channel coast at Dover and Folkestone, where a lack of French border police and other problems including longer post-Brexit passport checking times were blamed for huge traffic tailbacks and delays.

Holidaymakers have been warned should prepare to spend for hours in queues at Dover and Folkestone as Channel infrastructure is pushed past its limits, it has been claimed.

Local authorities in Kent pleaded for the government to address the lengthy traffic queues at its ports as a ‘national problem’.

Tory leadership contenders Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak pointed the finger of blame at the French, whom they accused of failing to send enough border staff, The Telegraph reports.

Vehicles queue at the border control booths at the Port of Dover yesterday, with some queues forming lines of several miles

Vehicles queue at the border control booths at the Port of Dover yesterday, with some queues forming lines of several miles

Traffic builds up at Eurotunnel, Folkestone, for a third day running due to Border Controls checks

Traffic builds up at Eurotunnel, Folkestone, for a third day running due to Border Controls checks

Transport bodies have urged ministers to boost investment in the ‘fragile’ infrastructure at Dover, warning that even minor incidents could contribute to traffic chaos.

Tony Howe, from the Kent Resilience Forum, said: ‘We have a traffic management plan where we can control freight, in particular, to enable traffic to get to the Eurotunnel and the Port of Dover.

‘The trouble is, it is on the knife edge. It takes very little to disrupt that plan.’

Holidaymakers say they were ‘treated worse than cattle’ and forced to sleep in their cars during traffic jams as the Eurotunnel became the latest ‘hotspot of holiday hell’ on Sunday.

As Britain’s summer getaway entered its third day of travel misery, families were still stuck in 21-hour delays which saw them stranded in their cars overnight in queues at Folkestone.

Children changed into their pyjamas and brushed their teeth on the roadside while desperate passengers were forced to use the verge as a public toilet.

The debacle began on Friday morning when a ‘critical incident’ was declared at Dover where motorists faced waits of more than seven hours. The two days of gridlock at the start of the busiest school holiday season for years was blamed on a lack of French border guards after only six out of 12 booths were initially manned.

British officials accused France of failing to sufficiently staff the border, while the French blamed the delays on additional checks brought on by Brexit.

Although the tourist traffic at Dover had been cleared by the early hours of yesterday morning, the situation around Folkestone remained dire.

Drivers were stuck in tailbacks after a stretch of the M20 was turned into a holding area to manage the backlog of some 600 lorries – with some delayed for up to 18 hours – waiting to cross at Dover.

The AA branded Folkestone the new ‘hotspot of holiday hell’ as people faced lengthy delays on approach to the Eurotunnel.

The motoring organisation said long waits at Folkestone had ‘fallen considerably’ by late afternoon but raised concerns that such congestion could be repeated this summer.

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: ‘This has been an incredible weekend of traffic jams into Dover and Folkestone, and holidaymakers will have been frustrated and angry at the delays.

‘Good progress has been made throughout the day and those waiting for more than five hours before reaching the check-in desk has fallen considerably. We hope that by tonight we should be back to usual traffic levels.

‘However, we are concerned that we could be in for a repeat of this congestion across the summer.’

Lengthy queues in Kent were finally reduced today, amid warnings that holidaymakers could face a summer of repeated travel disruption over weekends (Pictured: Traffic queues  on the M20 near Folkestone in Kent)

Lengthy queues in Kent were finally reduced today, amid warnings that holidaymakers could face a summer of repeated travel disruption over weekends (Pictured: Traffic queues  on the M20 near Folkestone in Kent)

While disruption at Dover had cleared by Sunday morning, the AA branded Folkestone the new 'hotspot of holiday hell' as people faced lengthy delays on approach to the Eurotunnel (Pictured: Holidaymakers make their way to the cruise terminal in Dover in Kent with no taxis or buses available)

While disruption at Dover had cleared by Sunday morning, the AA branded Folkestone the new ‘hotspot of holiday hell’ as people faced lengthy delays on approach to the Eurotunnel (Pictured: Holidaymakers make their way to the cruise terminal in Dover in Kent with no taxis or buses available)

Mr Cousens went on: ‘Drivers due to use both Dover and Folkestone to head into Europe on Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday mornings between now and the reopening of schools may see a repetition of these delays across the summer.’

The Port of Dover has said the fact it was able to clear traffic this weekend demonstrates that its ‘summer plan will work for the rest of the holiday period’ – but the AA said ‘significant progress’ would be needed to help reduce congestion in the weeks ahead.

Passport alert last year 

Ministers were warned about failures surrounding the passport crisis more than a year ago, a whistleblower has revealed.

The French-owned firm Teleperformance contracted to run the plagued Passport Office’s contact services was missing targets for calls and emails as long ago as May 2021.

A review highlighted its ‘unsatisfactory’ performance and need for improvement to ministers last summer. Teleperformance was also accused of worsening the backlog by giving wrong and unhelpful advice.

A whistleblower told the Observer that people were turning up at passport offices ‘in their droves’ after getting a ‘bad service’ from the helpline.

Teleperformance UK said it had worked ‘to handle an unprecedented surge in volumes and our current service levels have significantly improved’.

With the M20 coastbound closed to non-freight traffic as part of Operation Brock to manage traffic, National Highways warned on Sunday of ‘severe delays’ in Kent for people heading towards Dover or Eurotunnel.

One man, who was travelling with his wife and two children on Sunday by Eurotunnel, said it was a ‘stressful’ experience being stuck for eight hours in the car before boarding a train.

The man, who gave his name only as Eugene, told the PA news agency that while travelling to France by car suits his family, he would rethink it if every journey was likely to involve such major delays.

The 53-year-old said: ‘Have made this journey a number of times pre-pandemic and pre-Brexit. No such issues apart from occasional minor delay. A shame that this has occurred.’

Queues at the Port of Dover were reduced to around an hour on Sunday, with relatively empty lanes standing in stark contrast to the logjams of the previous two days.

A spokesman for the port said the French border was ‘fully manned and everything is flowing normally’ on Sunday morning.

Extra post-Brexit border checks and French authorities’ understaffing of checkpoints in Dover have been blamed for the hold-ups.

Port authorities said work undertaken by them and their partners, ‘including strong support from French border colleagues’, to clear traffic this weekend demonstrates that the Port of Dover’s ‘summer plan will work for the rest of the holiday period’.

About 72,000 passengers – more than 200 miles of tourist and freight traffic combined – had been processed across the weekend up until Sunday morning.

Port chief executive Doug Bannister thanked travellers and Dover residents for their understanding during what he described as a ‘challenging period’, and said he was ‘incredibly grateful to everyone who has turned this situation around, from the French and UK authorities to our ferry operators, Kent partners and our own port staff’.

The Port of Dover has said the fact it was able to clear traffic this weekend demonstrates that its 'summer plan will work for the rest of the holiday period' - but the AA said 'significant progress' would be needed to help reduce congestion in the weeks ahead

The Port of Dover has said the fact it was able to clear traffic this weekend demonstrates that its ‘summer plan will work for the rest of the holiday period’ – but the AA said ‘significant progress’ would be needed to help reduce congestion in the weeks ahead

Queues at the Port of Dover were reduced to around an hour on Sunday, with relatively empty lanes standing in stark contrast to the logjams of the previous two days

Queues at the Port of Dover were reduced to around an hour on Sunday, with relatively empty lanes standing in stark contrast to the logjams of the previous two days

Mark Simmonds, director of policy and external affairs at the British Ports Association, said he was glad to hear the situation at Dover had improved.

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘We’re told that the port expects those booths to be fully staffed throughout the summer.’

Passengers embarking on cross-Channel sailings from Dover must pass through French border checks before they can board a ferry.

Elsewhere on the roads, the AA said traffic appeared to be flowing well on Sunday ‘bar some isolated pockets of congestion’.

Father-of-three Manesh Luthra left his Essex home with his family at 4am on Saturday and reached close to the Eurotunnel shortly before 6am.

He told the BBC: ‘We joined the back of the queue for what was the worse 21 hours experienced. We moved metres in hours.’

Mr Luthra said the family were tempted to give up ‘numerous times’ as they received ‘no info, no support and no supplies’.

He added: ‘It was savage, I was worried there would be an accident.’

Another holidaymaker Joan, who is travelling with her disabled sister, told LBC: ‘We left our hotel and at 8.30am we entered the traffic jam – this is where we have been all day long. We have moved a mile in eight hours. 

‘It is absolutely horrendous, there are people passing out, we have had no police presence, there are people ringing 999, we have had no information. 

‘The hard shoulder is like a public urinal now. People are trying to give their dogs exercise. People are running out of water.’

Members of the coastguard have now been drafted in to hand out bottled water to stranded motorists stuck in the sweltering conditions. 

Vehicles queue to enter the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone this afternoon amid huge delays and reports of families waiting hours without moving

Vehicles queue to enter the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone this afternoon amid huge delays and reports of families waiting hours without moving

Members of the coastguard hand out water in the heat as drivers travelling to the area are urged to bring plenty of water and food

Members of the coastguard hand out water in the heat as drivers travelling to the area are urged to bring plenty of water and food

A large stretch of the M20 is closed southbound due to Operation Brock, with traffic building on the approach to the Eurotunnel at Folkestone. Delays have eased at nearby Port of Dover following chaos on Friday and Saturday

A large stretch of the M20 is closed southbound due to Operation Brock, with traffic building on the approach to the Eurotunnel at Folkestone. Delays have eased at nearby Port of Dover following chaos on Friday and Saturday

Members of the Coast Guard hand out bottled water to vehicles queuing to enter the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone this afternoon

Members of the Coast Guard hand out bottled water to vehicles queuing to enter the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone this afternoon

A driver reaches out to take a bottle of water from a member of the coastguard, who have been drafted in to assist holidaymakers this afternoon

A driver reaches out to take a bottle of water from a member of the coastguard, who have been drafted in to assist holidaymakers this afternoon

Jack Cousens, Head of Roads Policy at the AA, said that Folkestone has 'become the hotspot of holiday hell' in the sweltering conditions today

Jack Cousens, Head of Roads Policy at the AA, said that Folkestone has ‘become the hotspot of holiday hell’ in the sweltering conditions today

The situation around Dover and Folkestone has been worsened by Operation Brock, where a stretch of the M20 is closed to all but EU freight

The situation around Dover and Folkestone has been worsened by Operation Brock, where a stretch of the M20 is closed to all but EU freight

A huge queue of traffic trying to enter the Eurotunnel at Folkestone, Kent, today as the chaos continues for a third day

A huge queue of traffic trying to enter the Eurotunnel at Folkestone, Kent, today as the chaos continues for a third day

Holidaymakers wait outside their cars in gridlocked traffic pictured close to the Port of Dover this morning

Holidaymakers wait outside their cars in gridlocked traffic pictured close to the Port of Dover this morning

Holidaymakers and hauliers were pictured leaving their cars for fresh air as traffic became gridlocked

Holidaymakers and hauliers were pictured leaving their cars for fresh air as traffic became gridlocked

A dejected looking man was among many to leave their cars after becoming stuck among the chaos

A dejected looking man was among many to leave their cars after becoming stuck among the chaos

Police at the scene in Folkestone as traffic becomes gridlocked on the approach to the Eurotunnel

Police at the scene in Folkestone as traffic becomes gridlocked on the approach to the Eurotunnel

Gridlocked traffic on the approach to a roundabout close to the Eurotunnel in Folkestone, where chaos has ensued for a third straight day

Gridlocked traffic on the approach to a roundabout close to the Eurotunnel in Folkestone, where chaos has ensued for a third straight day

Long queues around the entrance to the Eurotunnel in Folkestone, Kent, where similar delays have plagued travellers

Long queues around the entrance to the Eurotunnel in Folkestone, Kent, where similar delays have plagued travellers

Kent Roads surrounding the entrance to the station we at a standstill this morning and could worsen as the day continues

Kent Roads surrounding the entrance to the station we at a standstill this morning and could worsen as the day continues

The Kent Resilience Forum has warned that Sunday will remain another day filled with disruption as Operation Brock remain in place on the M20

The Kent Resilience Forum has warned that Sunday will remain another day filled with disruption as Operation Brock remain in place on the M20

Gridlocked traffic pictured on the approach to the Eurotunnel at Folkestone earlier today, where families have reported being stuck in 21-hour queues

Gridlocked traffic pictured on the approach to the Eurotunnel at Folkestone earlier today, where families have reported being stuck in 21-hour queues

Families battle 21-hour delays as Folkestone Eurotunnel chaos continues for a third day 

Father-of-three Manesh Luthra left his Essex home with his family at 4am on Saturday and reached close to the Eurotunnel shortly before 6am.

He told the BBC: ‘We joined the back of the queue for what was the worse 21 hours experienced. We moved metres in hours.’

Mr Luthra said the family were tempted to give up ‘numerous times’ as they received ‘no info, no support and no supplies’.

He added: ‘It was savage, I was worried there would be an accident.’

Another holidaymaker Joan, who is travelling with her disabled sister, told LBC: ‘We left our hotel and at 8.30am we entered the traffic jam – this is where we have been all day long. We have moved a mile in eight hours. 

‘It is absolutely horrendous, there are people passing out, we have had no police presence, there are people ringing 999, we have had no information. 

‘The hard shoulder is like a public urinal now. People are trying to give their dogs exercise. People are running out of water.’

One man, who was travelling with his wife and two children on Sunday by Eurotunnel, said it was a ‘stressful’ experience being stuck for eight hours in the car before boarding his train.

The man, who gave his name only as Eugene, said that while travelling to France by car suits his family, he would rethink it if every journey was likely to involve such major delays.

The 53-year-old said: ‘Have made this journey a number of times pre-pandemic and pre-Brexit. No such issues apart from occasional minor delay. A shame that this has occurred.’

Jen Knight and her husband Jody, from Eastleigh in Hampshire, took the decision to stay overnight in Ashford in the hope that queues around the Eurotunnel would have eased by today.

But after leaving the nearby town at 5.30am, they did not arrive at the Folkestone travel hub until after 1pm.

She told the BBC: ‘The diversion signs around Kent were a joke. The M20 was closed and there was confusion over the diversion routes.

‘Eventually we got on the A20 which was slow moving. We were moving a mile an hour and in a stationary queue two miles from the Eurotunnel.’

Mrs Knight described the journey as ‘chaotic and arduous’, adding that ‘there didn’t seem to be any staff around’.  

One man, who was travelling with his wife and two children on Sunday by Eurotunnel, said it was a ‘stressful’ experience being stuck for eight hours in the car before boarding his train.

The man, who gave his name only as Eugene, said that while travelling to France by car suits his family, he would rethink it if every journey was likely to involve such major delays.

The 53-year-old said: ‘Have made this journey a number of times pre-pandemic and pre-Brexit. No such issues apart from occasional minor delay. A shame that this has occurred.’

Jen Knight and her husband Jody, from Eastleigh in Hampshire, took the decision to stay overnight in Ashford in the hope that queues around the Eurotunnel would have eased by today.

But after leaving the nearby town at 5.30am, they did not arrive at the Folkestone travel hub until after 1pm.

She told the BBC: ‘The diversion signs around Kent were a joke. The M20 was closed and there was confusion over the diversion routes.

‘Eventually we got on the A20 which was slow moving. We were moving a mile an hour and in a stationary queue two miles from the Eurotunnel.’

Mrs Knight described the journey as ‘chaotic and arduous’, adding that ‘there didn’t seem to be any staff around’.

Emma Burge, who is seven months pregnant, said it took her nearly 15 hours to drive from Buckinghamshire to the Eurotunnel.

She described how stranded motorists were playing tennis on the hard shoulder of the M20. 

Getlink, which operates the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle service, released a statement saying travel in Kent remained ‘challenging’.

It said: ‘The travel situation in Kent remains challenging. The expected high levels of holiday traffic and unusually high levels of trucks on the roads mean that there is congestion on routes leading to the Channel.

‘The Eurotunnel Passenger Shuttle service is running at full capacity, with four departures per hour carrying passenger traffic to France. There are also two departures per hour on the separate Freight Shuttle service.

‘Eurotunnel is already ahead of the traffic forecast for today, having carried the equivalent of two additional Shuttle departures during the morning, and we will continue to add extra departures through the day to help move traffic to France.

‘Eurotunnel recognises the difficult conditions customers are experiencing on the roads and we are working with Kent Police and National Highways to find solutions to the congestion.

‘Even if the congestion makes customers late reaching check-in, once they arrive at the terminal in Folkestone, they will be loaded onto the next available departure.

‘Once through check-in, it is currently taking an average of 90 minutes for customers to clear through the terminal, French border controls and board a Shuttle.’

Meanwhile, queues at the Port of Dover were reduced to an hour today, in contrast to scenes of bumper-to-bumper traffic which caused travel chaos in the area since Friday.

An anti-Brexit French police chief has been blamed for the mayhem as a cross-Channel row over fault enrages.

Fernand Gontier, 62, director general of France’s PAF Border Police, is accused of being responsible for there not having been enough French officers at Dover to help process checks on Friday.

As few as just six of 12 passport check booths were manned on Friday.

A Port of Dover source also told The Sun: ‘It’s clear Mr Gontier is not a fan of Brexit.

‘It feels that them not opening at full capacity on Friday has caused a backlog still being seen today.’

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps blamed France for the ‘unacceptable’ delays, arguing that French passport authorities should have ensured enough staff were operating the passport booths, The Times reports. 

And Foreign Secretary and Tory leadership hopeful Liz Truss also said disruption was the fault of French authorities when asked if Brexit was the reason for the transport chaos.

Speaking at a campaign visit in Kent yesterday, she said: ‘This is a situation that has been caused by a lack of resource at the border.

‘And that is what the French authorities need to address and that is what I am being very clear with them about.’

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office later tweeted a statement from Ms Truss announcing that she had spoken to French foreign minister Catherine Colonna.

She said: ‘I was clear the French authorities have not put enough people on the border and we need to see action from then to resolve the terrible situation which travellers, including families, are facing.’

The message came after a tweet from Ms Colonna, who stated the pair had a ‘good talk’.

Ms Colonna added: ‘We welcomed the cooperation between our competent technical services to reduce the delays. Need also to improve the facilities of the port of Dover.’

Traffic pictured building at the Port of Dover early on Sunday amid warnings of another day of chaos. The situation has since improved

Traffic pictured building at the Port of Dover early on Sunday amid warnings of another day of chaos. The situation has since improved

Huge queues pictured on the approach to the Port of Dover on Sunday morning as delays continued into a third day at the Channel crossing

Huge queues pictured on the approach to the Port of Dover on Sunday morning as delays continued into a third day at the Channel crossing

Anti-Brexit French police chief Fernand Gontier (pictured) is accused of being responsible for delays at the port

Anti-Brexit French police chief Fernand Gontier (pictured) is accused of being responsible for delays at the port

Passengers pictured in lengthy queues at Bristol Airport at 4.30am this morning as holidaymakers across the UK face delays

Passengers pictured in lengthy queues at Bristol Airport at 4.30am this morning as holidaymakers across the UK face delays

A passenger pictured sleeping in a waiting area at Bristol Airport in the early hours of this morning as holidaymakers encountered huge queues at the travel hub

A passenger pictured sleeping in a waiting area at Bristol Airport in the early hours of this morning as holidaymakers encountered huge queues at the travel hub

Queues on the approach to passport check booths at the Port of Dover this morning, where some passengers said they slept overnight

Queues on the approach to passport check booths at the Port of Dover this morning, where some passengers said they slept overnight

Tens of thousands of exasperated families have become caught up in the chaos since issues began on Friday

Tens of thousands of exasperated families have become caught up in the chaos since issues began on Friday

A long queue of cars trying to reach passport checks booths at the Port of Dover this morning

A long queue of cars trying to reach passport checks booths at the Port of Dover this morning 

There were hopes the situation would improve today, with the port claiming that traffic was once again 'flowing normally' in the early hours

There were hopes the situation would improve today, with the port claiming that traffic was once again ‘flowing normally’ in the early hours

But French politician Pierre-Henri Dumont, Republican MP for Calais, blamed delays on the UK’s exit from the EU, telling BBC News it was ‘an aftermath of Brexit’ with more checks needed and claiming the Dover port is ‘too small’ with too few kiosks due to lack of space.

A statement from the Port of Dover said today: ‘With all aspects of the summer getaway operation running at full pace, the Port of Dover worked around the clock with its operational partners to clear waiting Dover-bound freight vehicles overnight. 

‘The backlog of tourist passengers that was generated on Friday has also now been cleared along with successfully getting Saturday’s holidaymakers off on their way. So far this weekend the Port has processed 72,000 passengers, which is more than 200 miles of tourist and freight traffic combined.

‘With the entire port system working efficiently, including strong support from French border colleagues and ferries running through the night, the Port demonstrated that its summer plan will work for the rest of the holiday period, as it did in clearing huge volumes of tourist and freight traffic to get back to normal by the early hours of Sunday morning.

‘We should not have been in this situation in the first place, however, with all partners working together, the plan will ensure that trade continues to flow effectively, families get away on their holidays quickly and our community is open and free to go about its business.

‘The Port of Dover is set for another busy day today. With the additional French border control booths we have installed being fully utilised and our passenger champions on hand to help, the system is performing well, but please check with your chosen ferry operators for updates if you are intending to travel,’

Earlier, Port of Dover chief executive Doug Bannister said it was ‘immensely frustrating’ to be ‘let down’ by poor resourcing at the French border, adding that there will be ‘increased transaction times’ at the border due to extra checks needed.

He later said he welcomed the ‘commitment shown by both French and UK authorities to resolve the issue’, and added the required staffing levels must be maintained for the rest of the summer.

And today, he added: ‘I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has turned this situation around, from the French and UK authorities to our ferry operators, Kent partners and our own port staff. 

‘I am also incredibly grateful for the support and understanding that our customers and community have shown us during this challenging period. 

‘We all now owe it to them to ensure our summer plan is delivered in full for the rest of the holiday period.’

Natalie Chapman, from haulier group Logistics UK, echoed concerns about French staff numbers and Brexit changes.

She said: ‘As I say, the cause was that lack of resource yesterday but also, of course, it takes a lot longer to process through traffic than it used to.

‘You used to, prior to Brexit, just wave your passport and they may or may not be looked at but now every one is checked and stamped.’

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, called on the goverment to invest in freight facilities over using the motorway ‘as a car park’.

He said: ‘It would be a mistake to think the chaos we have seen around Dover and across East Kent this weekend is new and novel. 

‘These tailback problems have been around for decades and are stark evidence of how fragile our continental links across the Channel can be. 

‘Even when the new post-Brexit customs regime has bedded down ferry services can still fall prey to foul weather and industrial action.

‘Successive governments have failed to grasp the nettle and invest in the scale of extra lorry parking – with facilities for drivers – instead relying on the inadequate solution of turning a motorway into a lorry park, with the consequent massive disruption that brings to the surrounding area. 

‘It’s high time we replaced the sticking plaster with a resilient solution worthy of the name.’

Around 6,500 cars are expected to make the crossing today, down from 10,000 on Saturday.

Port officials and staff at the Eurotunnel in nearby Folkestone also worked through the night to try and clear a backlog of 1,500 lorries that were forced to park on the side of the M20.

The government has considered tit-for-tat measures against EU passport holders entering the UK by delaying them with ‘wet stamping’, while British citizens would face less stringent measures.

But a decision on the proposal has been delayed after civil servants recommended that such measure be withheld until the new Prime Minister begins their post.

The more rigorous post-Brexit passport checks have caused the average time for a car to be processed at a booth by French officials to nearly triple from around 25-30 seconds up to between 70 seconds and three minutes, Mr Bannister has said.

The chaotic scenes have heaped fresh misery on travellers who have already suffered months of disruptions at understaffed airports and endured strike action on the railways. 

It comes as delays that have plagued the UK’s airports for months continued this morning as passengers were pictured in lengthy queues at Bristol Airport.

Scenes at EasyJet check-in desks were described as ‘absolute chaos’ by passengers.

A spokesperson for the airport said: ‘The only issues we faced this morning was due to customers arriving very early ahead of check-in opening. 

‘We are advising all customers to check with their airline and arrive when check-in opens, arriving early adds to the congestion. Maximum queue time at check-in was 43 minutes for a short period of time.’

Travel hubs have been struggling to cope with the number of passengers trying to travel abroad after Covid restrictions were eased earlier this year.

There have been repeated complaints about long queues for security at airports such as Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester, while a shortage of baggage handlers has led to long delays in people collecting their luggage. 

Passengers queue to get into the arrivals hall at Bristol Airport in the early hours of this morning amid a weekend of travel chaos across the UK

Passengers queue to get into the arrivals hall at Bristol Airport in the early hours of this morning amid a weekend of travel chaos across the UK

LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT: Passengers queue for check-in on a Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) flight at Heathrow on Friday

LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT: Passengers queue for check-in on a Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) flight at Heathrow on Friday

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Passengers queue for check-in at Manchester Airport's Terminal Two on Friday

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Passengers queue for check-in at Manchester Airport’s Terminal Two on Friday

On Friday, air passengers faced long queues in parts of London Heathrow, Manchester and Bristol airports following the beginning of the school summer holidays.

With most terms in England and Wales now ending, the RAC said an estimated 18.8million leisure trips are planned in the UK between today and Monday – the most since it began tracking summer getaway numbers in 2014.

It comes after Britain’s road network came under intense pressure yesterday, with 18.8 million journeys made in the biggest summer getaway in eight years. 

Nikki Allford, 31, and her three daughters aged five, eight and 12, left their home in Hertfordshire at 11.30pm on Friday for a trip to Disneyland Paris. They got stuck in traffic in Kent at 2.30am and did not board a Channel Tunnel train until 11.15am.

‘It’s a bit of a free-for-all now as there are so many delays there is no real way of tracking who’s getting on what train,’ she told The Mail on Sunday as they drove on to the train. ‘This is our first holiday since pre-Covid, so we are desperate to get there.’

Rea Pope, a science teacher from Reigate, Surrey, was stranded in the queue outside Eurotunnel’s terminal in Folkestone for more than six hours – with traffic taking 90 minutes to crawl just 100 yards. ‘We arrived in the traffic one mile away at 5am and we are still stuck in it,’ she wrote on Twitter just before 11am.

Caroline Lynsey left her home in Cambridge at 3am but did not reach the passport booths at the Eurotunnel terminal until around midday – nine hours later. She estimated it had taken seven hours to travel just three miles. 

‘Seriously, don’t bother coming near here today, change your tickets,’ she wrote in a post on Facebook. 

Also among those affected were pensioners Paul and Wendy Nicholas who were heading to Cologne to join a river cruise on Saturday. 

They got to the port by train but the coach they had to catch got caught in a huge traffic jam 18 miles outside Dover. 

‘We’ve no idea when the coach is going to get here,’ said Mr Nicholas, a former assistant chief constable. ‘It’s been a disaster.’

Holidays mayhem… and how to survive airlines, ferries and strikes, as an estimated 70 per cent of families take a break after two years of largely going nowhere

By Mark Palmer, Travel Editor for the Daily Mail 

The baking temperatures which swept across Britain last week may have abated, but travellers are feeling the heat like never before as they look to enjoy a holiday abroad this summer.

It’s estimated that 70 per cent of families have planned or are planning a break following two years of largely going nowhere due to the pandemic.

These plans run the risk of being scuppered by disgraceful scenes such as those witnessed at the weekend at the Port of Dover and at the approach to the Eurotunnel station at Folkestone.

Savvy holidaymakers could be forgiven for thinking reaching the Continent by ferry or train would be a more sensible option than braving an airport. At airports, queues in some cases continue to stretch out of the terminals and, on your return to the UK, you may or may not be reacquainted with your luggage.

The baking temperatures which swept across Britain last week may have abated, but travellers are feeling the heat like never before as they look to enjoy a holiday abroad this summer. Dover is seen above on Sunday

The baking temperatures which swept across Britain last week may have abated, but travellers are feeling the heat like never before as they look to enjoy a holiday abroad this summer. Dover is seen above on Sunday

Whatever your form of transport, misery awaits. And it’s not as if staying put in the UK is without its travails, as train unions plan strikes and main roads become an assault course of roadworks.

What makes matters worse is that no one accepts responsibility for this summer shocker. Airports blame the airlines for taking furlough money and then letting staff go; airlines blame the airports for not gearing up sooner and failing to anticipate surging travel demand.

Yesterday saw the unedifying spectacle of two heavyweight industry bosses slugging it out over who’s to blame, with former Heathrow chairman Sir Nigel Rudd accusing ex-British Airways boss Willie Walsh of ‘trashing’ the BA brand, in response to Walsh’s accusation that Heathrow’s dealing with the crisis has been ‘farcical.’

Similar skirmishes have broken out between French and UK officials over how many passport booths are manned at UK ports. What’s certainly missing from the British side, however, is a plan of action to limit the sort of disruptions we saw at the weekend.

We voted to leave the EU in 2016 – we’ve had more than six years to sort out a workable border policy with France. It hasn’t happened, and airlines – especially BA and easyJet – have been ill-prepared for the inevitable increase in travel traffic. The onus falls on holidaymakers to negotiate their own way through the chaos. Here’s a helping hand.

Best airlines

Some airlines have performed better than others. Jet2 – operating out of airports in the North and Midlands – laid off only a handful of workers and has kept cancellations down to a minimum.

Even for Londoners, flying from Birmingham airport with Jet2 might be less stressful that leaving from Gatwick with easyJet.

Ryanair, with some 134.5million passengers a year, is also a good bet. Tui, the largest tour operator in Britain, came in for criticism in early spring but says it’s now back on track and ‘confident of getting customers away on their well-deserved holidays’. 

Opt for an early morning flight, less likely to be cancelled or delayed. Fly to short-haul destinations where an airline offers multiple daily flights so, if one is cancelled, there are others you can take.

Don’t turn up five hours before your flight; you won’t be able to check-in. Travelling on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday reduces the likelihood of cancellations (Sunday is particularly prone). When booking long-haul, pick countries where there may just be one flight a day as airlines will not want to cancel and have to rebook 350 people for the following day, requiring them to billet passengers in an airport hotel.

Opt for an early morning flight, less likely to be cancelled or delayed. Fly to short-haul destinations where an airline offers multiple daily flights so, if one is cancelled, there are others you can take. Bristol Airport is seen above on Sunday

Opt for an early morning flight, less likely to be cancelled or delayed. Fly to short-haul destinations where an airline offers multiple daily flights so, if one is cancelled, there are others you can take. Bristol Airport is seen above on Sunday

Ferry options

The horrendous queues at the Port of Dover have been caused in part by insufficient numbers of French officials stamping passports, which is required now that we have left the EU.

Average time for a car to be cleared at Dover has increased from 25-30 seconds to between 70 seconds and two minutes. If you absolutely have to take a ferry from Dover, stock up on water and other supplies.

Download the Waze sat-nav, which gives up-to-date information about traffic jams and should find you an alternative route – although remember that thousands of others will be doing the exact same thing.

There are other options for reaching France. Ferries run from Newhaven to Dieppe and from Portsmouth to Caen, Cherbourg, Le Havre and St Malo. Three ferries operate between the UK and Spain – Plymouth to Santander and from Portsmouth to Bilbao and Santander.

Tunnel vision

The approach to Le Shuttle has become a bottleneck, with severe delays on the A20 and M20. Operation Block is in action. This is a set of measures introduced by National Highways to keep the M20 open in both directions between junctions 8 and 9.

What this means for cars is that they must leave at junction 8 and follow the diversion route using the A2, M2 and A20, while lorries stay on the M20 and join the queue. There are toilets and other facilities at the terminal, including ‘pets exercise areas’. Sign up for alerts at eurotunnel.com.

Strike alert

Keep abreast of ongoing strike action. Around 40,000 rail workers will walk out on Wednesday across 14 companies after the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union rejected what they called a ‘paltry’ pay offer from Network Rail.

The 24-hour strike comes a day before the start of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the RAC is warning of long delays on the roads as holidaymakers and commuters take to their cars.

Either leave at the crack of dawn or after the evening rush hour but check first with nationalhighways.co.uk, which tells you of any road closures a week in advance, with many of those taking place from 10pm-6am. With fuel prices soaring, it’s worth trying to avoid motorway service stations where costs on average are 37 pence a litre more than local garages.

Know your rights 

If an airline cancels a flight, you are entitled to be re-booked on the next convenient one (with another airline if necessary), or given a refund that should be paid within 14 days.

If your flight is cancelled at short notice – within two weeks of departure – or delayed for more than three hours, you are due compensation.

This does not apply if the cancellation/delay is caused by ‘air traffic management decisions, political instability, adverse weather conditions or security risks’. Similar rules apply to ferry cancellations and delays.

Glimmers of hope 

Airlines were given an amnesty last month over flight cancellations, whereby they could cancel without paying a financial penalty to the Civil Aviation Authority and would not lose their slots. That amnesty is now finished and so it is less likely that your flight will be cancelled.

Also, airlines – via outside companies contracted to them – are busy recruiting staff, which should see results later in the summer and into autumn. The first weekend after schools have broken up is often a mad scramble. We’re over that now. Hopefully.

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk