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Summer getaway halted by ‘woefully inadequate’ French border staffing at Dover

Holidaymakers booked on sailings from the Kent port reported being stuck in five-hour queues to complete border checks.

22 July 2022

France has been accused by the Port of Dover of “woefully inadequate” border control staffing which is ruining the summer getaway for thousands of families.

Holidaymakers booked on sailings from the Kent port reported being stuck in five-hour queues to complete border checks before they can check in for their ferry.

The port said in a statement it has made “significant investment” to increase its capacity, and shared traffic volume forecasts “in granular detail with the French authorities”.

It went on: “Regrettably, the PAF (police aux frontieres) resource has been insufficient and has fallen far short of what is required to ensure a smooth first weekend of the peak summer getaway period.”

Meanwhile, fuel price protests are set to cause disruption during what is expected to be the busiest summer getaway on the roads in at least eight years.

Avon and Somerset Police warned motorists that “slow-moving roadblocks” are planned on parts of the M4, M5, M32 and A38 on Friday morning.

An image posted on Facebook group Fuel Price Stand Against Tax suggests demonstrations will be held “nationwide”, including in Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool, London and Manchester.

With most schools in England and Wales breaking up for summer this week, the RAC said an estimated 18.8 million leisure trips are planned in the UK between Friday and Monday.

That is the most since the company began tracking summer getaway numbers in 2014.

Delays at Dover are causing tourist and freight traffic to be stuck on gridlocked roads in the area.

One Twitter user wrote: “I’m booked onto 8am ferry from Dover and it’s total gridlock. Moved 50 metres per hour.

“At this rate it’ll be 34 hours before I get to the port!

“I have a screaming toddler and three-month-old.”

Another described how they have been “waiting five hours and still not in the port”.

The person added: “Sat in lanes waiting to get to border control. Zero movement.”

Ferry operator P&O Ferries told passengers: “There are currently queues in excess of four hours to reach the border controls.

“Our check-in remains free flowing and once you reach us, we will put you on the first available sailing.

“Please arrive prepared for a prolonged wait. Carry snacks and additional water with you.”

Drivers were urged by Superintendent Tony Blatchford of Avon and Somerset Police to consider “alternative travel plans” due to the pump price protests.

He said: “Our protest liaison team has been engaging with the organiser so we can inform the public of the likely disruption and help to minimise it.

“Nevertheless, drivers can expect journey times will likely be longer than normal, especially on motorways, which often tend to be at their busiest at this time of year.

“We advise motorists to consider any alternative travel plans available and ensure they are suitably prepared in case they are delayed.”

Fuel price protests on July 4 led to 12 people being arrested on the M4.

The first stage of Friday’s action in the South West will see vehicles travel north on the M5 between Bridgwater and the Almondsbury Interchange from about 8.45am, then east along the M4 and to Junction 1 of the M32.

The convoy is expected to leave the motorway and stop “for a period of time” before completing the same route in reverse, arriving back in Bridgwater “in the early afternoon”, police said.

A second group of protesters is planning to drive slowly to the Shell petrol station in Bristol Road, Bridgwater.

“They are expected to block the forecourt during the morning,” according to police.

Figures from data company Experian show the average price of a litre of petrol on Wednesday was 187.5p, while diesel was 196.1p.

Transport analytics company Inrix believes the M25 – London’s orbital motorway – could see some of the worst jams due to the summer getaway, singling out the stretches between Bromley and the Dartford Crossing; Maple Cross and the M3; and the M23 to the M40.

The A303 near Stonehenge, Wiltshire, the M4 between Cardiff and Newport in South Wales, and the M5 south of Bristol are also likely to see queuing traffic.

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