Dover delays: Queues ease but delays 'could last for weeks'

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Media captionMotorists vent their frustrations at Dover queues

Delays for motorists going to Dover have eased but some disruption could last for weeks, police have warned.

Kent Police said traffic was back at normal levels, after drivers had queued for up to 14 hours because of extra French security checks at the port.

The Port of Dover said there were no longer queues at the port but advised allowing plenty of time for travel.

Motorists have been told to check with travel operators before making trips and to bring extra food and water.

Latest information from BBC Travel

Motorists queue for up to 14 hours in Dover traffic chaos

Police said the weekend's disruption was caused by the large volume of holiday traffic and increased checks at the border following recent terror attacks in France.

The Port of Dover authority said the French border control booths in Dover were "seriously understaffed" on Friday night, when problems began.

Kent County Council said 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.

The delays persisted into Sunday as more travellers continued to head for Dover while the port was still dealing with Saturday's backlog.

Image caption Highways England has advised motorists to prepare themselves for delays

UK officials were sent to help at French border posts overnight on Saturday, in response to what the Home Office said was "extraordinary disruption". While they were not able to conduct passport checks, they were able to help French officials searching vehicles.

The UK officials remain on standby to help.

The London-bound carriageway of the A20 was closed for hours to enable Kent Police, coastguards and volunteers to distribute water to those stuck in the Dover-bound queues, and to allow stranded motorists access toilet facilities. It has since been fully re-opened.

But Kent Police said large volumes of holiday traffic and extra border checks by French authorities meant there could be delays for weeks.

Tales from the queue

Image copyright Jack Donnelly
Image caption The queue on Saturday was described as "like Glastonbury" - but without the hope of seeing any bands

With vehicles backed up on roads for a second day, many were forced to spend the night in their cars. Families have been running short on food and water - but with a surplus of boredom and frustration.

Haider told the BBC he had been on the road for nearly 24 hours with his wife and three children.

"We left Birmingham at 9am yesterday morning. My little one has just thrown up, he's been feeling car sick for the last couple of hours and he's just thrown up."

Ollie Burridge, who is travelling with his family to Barcelona from South Wales, described a more jolly atmosphere.

"There were some people playing football on the other side of the carriageway that had been closed," he said.

"We got some bats and balls and played a spot of tennis over the central reservation. We made the best of it."

Meanwhile, Twitter user Hannah Brisley posted a video, saying that she had thrown food down to people stuck on the motorway, and had been rewarded with them singing a song.

Read more tales from the traffic jams

Image caption The Port of Dover warned of a two-hour wait inside the port on Sunday
Image copyright PA
Image caption Khalsa Aid representatives delivered almost 6,000 bottles of water and snacks to stranded motorists overnight

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 had raised concerns over French staffing levels with the UK government earlier this week, which were then brought up with its French counterparts.

Image copyright Simon Barnes
Image caption On Saturday night, queues extended out of the port, into Dover, and onto the motorway network in Kent

The Conservative MP for Dover and Deal, Charlie Elphicke, has called on the government to apologise to people who queued for hours in the summer heat, describing the situation as "completely unacceptable".

Pete Williams, from the RAC, said the authorities needed to put better contingency plans in place.

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