Port of Dover ‘critical incident’: Ferries sail through night in bid to clear traffic by Sunday lunchtime
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The traffic chaos at the Port of Dover, that saw coach passengers stranded for hours from the early hours of Saturday, is expected to clear on Sunday lunchtime (April 2). According to The Telegraph, more ferries will travel across the English Channel to help clear the backlog.
Saturday morning saw high volumes of traffic at the port, which was blamed on bad weather and delays at French Border controls, with some passengers complaining of being held up for 14 hours without sufficient food and drinks.
P&O Ferries, in an update on Saturday evening, said: “We apologise for the wait times for coaches this weekend. We have put on additional sailings overnight to help clear the backlog of traffic. Once coaches reach our check-in desks, they will be on the next crossing to Calais.”
The company had also stated coaches at the Cruise terminal were still experiencing a wait time of up to 3.5 hours before proceeding to the Port of Dover. It added: “Once they are in the buffer zone at the entrance to the port, the wait is approximately another three to four hours. We apologise for delays.”
This came after a day in which a port spokesperson said he was “deeply frustrated”, particularly on behalf of ferry operators’ coach passengers “who have had to endure such a long wait” at the start of the Easter holiday.
He added freight and car traffic was being processed steadily but coach traffic has suffered major delays due to lengthy French border processes at Dover and sheer volume.
This is not the first time the port has been plagued with major queues. Last year, a critical incident was also declared in Dover for the same reasons at Easter. This time, the port said despite considerable pre-planning, the additional coach bookings taken by ferry operators for the holiday has impacted operations.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged the Government to “get a grip” of the situation at Dover. He said: “This is not the first time there have been problems at Dover. The Government needs to get a grip on this.”
He added: “You can’t have every summer holiday, every Easter holiday, the same old problem. And so the Government needs to get a grip on this and actually help people out, who are just trying to get away for a few days’ holiday.”
In response, a Government spokesperson said the Government remains in close contact with ferry operators, the French operators, the French authorities, and the Kent Resilience Forum regarding delays at Port of Dover.
The spokesperson added: “The port has advised that it remains busy, but the situation has improved significantly since yesterday, with coaches being processed at a much quicker rate. We recommend passengers check the latest advice from their operators before travelling.”