Kent

Dover ferry port chaos leads to 14-hour traffic jams

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Media captionMotorists vent their frustrations at Dover queues

Motorists have been hit by delays of up to 14 hours through Kent to get to the Port of Dover, with many holidaymakers being stuck in traffic overnight.

Port officials said delays built up due to understaffing of French border posts during heightened security checks.

The port warned of road delays of five to 10 hours, and Kent Police said there could be continued disruption for another 36 to 48 hours.

Police are flying in water by helicopter for stranded motorists.

P&O Ferries said there were estimated waiting times of up to 12 hours via the A20/M20, and up to three hours on the A2/A256, in addition to two hours at the port.

It said "vast volumes of holiday traffic" had compounded the security problems.

Image copyright Jack Donnelly
Image caption One motorist described the atmosphere as "like Glastonbury" but with no band at the end

Highways England warned of delays of up to 10 hours as queues stretched for more than 12 miles.

"All traffic is being advised to use the M20/A20 as the A2 is at a standstill into the Port of Dover. With the summer getaway there are severe delays on the M2/A2, M20/A20 and at Round Hill tunnel," it said.

For local traffic going to Dover or Folkestone, motorists are being advised to use alternative roads - the more obscure the better, police said.

Image copyright @LemonJelly

Motorists have been waiting in hot weather, with temperatures of up to 25C.

Kent Police appealed to motorists to stay in their cars and keep them well ventilated.

The force tweeted: "Leaving cars is dangerous, traffic is stop/start. We've also had delays due to people not being in cars when traffic starts moving."

Ian, who was among those stuck in the traffic, warned there could be fatalities if people did not get food and water.

He said: "This is epic proportion and if someone doesn't take hold of this someone is going to die out here."

Parts of the London-bound carriageway of the A20 were closed to help with the distribution of water by police motorbikes. Water is being collected from the Coastguard base at Langdon, near Dover.

Security checks at the Port of Dover were relaxed around lunchtime to help speed up the process but police advised travellers to pack plenty of food and water and consider making alternative travel arrangements.

Kent County Council said only three out of a potential seven booths had been available overnight at French border control.

At one stage only one French officer was available to check passengers on hundreds of coaches, resulting in each coach taking 40 minutes to process, said the council.

Image caption There are lengthy waits at the port with many people stranded overnight and huge numbers stuck in traffic

Ferry companies have said they will hold sailings to ensure people can travel and say those who miss their crossing because of the traffic will be put onto alternative crossings.

P&O Ferries earlier refused to comment on reports some ferries had been leaving empty or with very few customers on board.

The company said in a tweet: "Rest assured we'll get you on your way as soon as you pass the checks."

Ferry operator DFDS Seaways said additional services had been added to help late-running customers. It said it would put delayed customers on the first available sailing free of charge at check-in.

'Completely unacceptable'

France has been under a state of emergency since last November, when terror attacks in Paris left 130 people dead and has tightened its border checks accordingly.

The port said it raised concerns over French staffing levels with the UK government earlier this week, which was brought up with its French counterparts.

No problems have been reported at other major ferry ports and there are no delays on Channel Tunnel services but people have been told it will take 90 minutes to check in due to extra security procedures.

Image copyright Kent Police
Image caption Kent Police have started to give out water to motorists trapped on the motorway

Dover MP Charlie Elphicke said people caught in the chaos were owed an apology, blaming poor management and a lack of forward planning.

"For Dover to once again be plunged into traffic chaos is completely unacceptable," he said.

"The Department for Transport and Home Office knew there would be heightened security checks in place in France. They should have been prepared. They weren't."

Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham said the government had been "caught ill-prepared once again".

"This can't carry on and it certainly can't happen again," he said. "Ministers must take action to assist the thousands of holidaymakers who, through no fault of their own, are now stranded. It's the beginning of the busiest holiday period and the government cannot allow this to continue."

Local resident Bronwen Page said no-one appeared to be taking overall responsibility for the situation.

She said: "Listening to BBC Radio Kent, I was utterly disgusted at the response in our county. I went to my local supermarket and picked up 20 crates of water and handed out the water."

'Shambolic'

Those stuck in the queues have been voicing their frustration.

Jessica said: "We have moved about one-and-a-half miles in 11 hours, an absolute disgrace.

"We have a three and four-year-old with us, I'm pregnant as well and still have some morning sickness and with people using the side of the road as a toilet the whole thing is really unpleasant."

Joerg Walther, who is trying to get home to Frankfurt, said his family had resorted to eating the scones and chocolates they had bought as gifts but were heartened when a local man came along and handed out pizza and fizzy drinks.

"We are worried about what is going to happen, where we might have to sleep and where the next meal is coming from," he said.

Image copyright Luigi Grandi
Image caption Queues began to ease inside the port once the security checks were relaxed

Bill Murray, who has been stuck for 12 hours, described the situation as "shambolic".

He tweeted: "Bosses of this shambles must resign. No help. One policeman on a bike an hour ago, failed to stop... truly a third world response. Woeful."

Sonia Tutt, 38, on her way to Germany with more than a dozen others in a convoy, said: "Everyone is out of their vehicles, kids are playing football."

She added: "When we went to join the motorway there was no indication you were likely to be sitting here all night."

'Struggling in heat'

Kris Mazur spent Friday night on the A20 and said he had moved about one mile in 10 hours.

He said people were standing around at the edge of the road having picnics or sleeping in their cars.

He added: "There has been no access to food or toilets. The motorway is still completely blocked."

Image copyright Lemon Jelly
Image caption Twitter user Lemon Jelly said it has taken four hours to move half a mile

Jack Donnelly from London said he had been stuck for more than seven hours.

He said they had not been given much information and families with children were especially struggling with the heat.

"People are helping each other out but the atmosphere is starting to get tense," he added.

'Camping spirit'

Dale Savage was caught in the delays for 12 hours en route to his brother's wedding. He said: "There are a lot of kids here, a lot of young children - a lot of people want to go on their holidays.

"There are no real frustrations, the real problem was no-one knew what was going on."

He described a "camping spirit... very much like Glastonbury" but without a band to see at the end of it.

However, Twitter user Lemon Jelly earlier said the mood was changing.

"The novelty is wearing off. A few hours ago you would see picnics and kids on rollerblades skating up the A20. Now a lot of overheated, glum faces."

Sarah Rossin added: "We've got three kids and they are being ace but it's 31 degrees on the motorway."

Image copyright Kris Mazur
Image caption Roads leading to the Port of Dover have been hit with heavy traffic

Earlier on Saturday, Suzanne Holland said she had finally checked in for the 08:30 crossing - 12 hours after arriving in Dover.

"Anyone would be uncomfortable for that time especially with no information. Had we known we would have tried to sleep," she said.

Image copyright Sarah Rossin
Image caption Sarah Rossin said she was at a standstill in the tunnel for about four hours

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