Port of Dover declares critical incident as passengers slam …
Severe delays at Dover are continuing today, after the port declared a critical incident over waits of up to 14 hours.
Among those stranded yesterday evening were schoolchildren who were reportedly left without food for more than five hours.
There are long delays at The Port of Dover
It comes as operators P&O Ferries and DFDS Seaways also reported delays to ferry and coach services, citing bad weather and hold-ups at French border controls as partly responsible for waits and queues.
Yesterday evening the Port of Dover apologised for the problems, which come at the start of the school Easter holidays.
Some people reported being stuck for up to 14 hours. This morning the delay was down to around five or six.
The Port of Dover tweeted this morning to say: “Coach traffic within the Port is still experiencing lengthy delays due to border processing. Ferry operators are sending arriving coach traffic to alternate waiting areas, so the existing backlog can be cleared.”
Cate Webb-Jones’s son and his classmates were caught up in the long delays, arriving at their accommodation in France nearly 24 hours after leaving at 5am yesterday.
The frustrated mother said: “The lack of updates, the lack of assurance re contingency measures were woeful.
“I was told my sons coach had a bottle of water provided for each pupil. A school teacher and pupil in the end walked to a local pizza place and carried 10 boxes between them back to the coach to share amongst the 30 passengers.
“At 9pm I tweeted P&O and asked when they would declare the situation as a critical incident and then an hour later it was declared. But what additional resources and contingency plans were then put in place?
The A20 Roundhill Tunnel eastbound has been closed between the M20 J13 and the A260 near Folkestone to prevent traffic queueing in the Roundhill Tunnel following the implementation of Operation TAP at the Port of Dover.
Cate Webb-Jones says her son and his classmates were left stranded on a coach in Dover for hours. Picture: Cate Webb-Jones
TAP has been implemented as a result of significant disruption at border control at the Port.
P&O Ferries said it was providing refreshments to coach passengers waiting at the cruise terminal and working on getting food and drink to passengers waiting in the buffer zone at the entrance to the port.
It also said it would add an additional sailing this morning to help clear the backlog of traffic.
DFDS Seaways tweeted this morning simply saying it was “expecting a busy weekend” and urged passengers to allow extra time to complete border and check-in controls.
Dover MP Natalie Elphicke (Con) expressed her dismay at the situation. She said: “Incredibly disappointing to see French border control problems once again adding to traffic mayhem just as families are trying to getaway for the Easter holidays.
Natalie Elphicke MP
“There has been huge disruption for Dover’s Aycliffe residents today too – facing a night of noisy lorries queuing outside their homes yet again.”
Last night the Port of Dover put out a statement saying: “The Port of Dover can confirm that a critical incident is under way as the port is currently experiencing high volumes of coach traffic due to the Easter holidays.
“Our present high volumes, combined with extended processing at border controls, has resulted in lengthy delays for coach passengers.
“The port, ferry operators and other partners are working hard to resolve the current issue.”
The port added: “We apologise for the inconvenience these delays may have caused to passenger journeys and thank all port users for their patience at this time.”
Furious passengers took to Twitter to vent their frustrations.
The port said the delays are with border processing
Among them was Tim Cotterill who tweeted to say: “We were delayed by 12 hours. Port of Dover knew there were 700 coaches coming through today. Some contingencies should have been made.”
He said there were just three French border officials processing passengers.
Harry Wood added: “Coaches full of children stranded for well over 12 hours. No water, no food and not a care for them it would seem!
“Absolute disgrace. Sort it out P&O Ferries. Contingency plans need to be put into place to stop this continuing.”
Ann-Marie Powell said she spent a “horrendous” evening tracking her 13-year-old son’s location on his iPhone on his first trip away from home without his parents.
She said he and his classmates were distressed after being sat on the Tarmac since 8pm yesterday.
“Coaches full of children stranded for well over 12 hours. No water, no food and not a care for them it would seem!”
Joanna Pugh added: “Coaches full of children stranded for well over 12 hours. No water, no food and not a care for them it would seem!
While others have hit out at P&O Ferries for advertising a one-hour delay period. One user said: “That is misleading. We have been here for 13 hours so far and you have been turning coaches away to wait overnight at service stations.”
The Port of Dover has since released a statement, saying: “The Port of Dover is deeply frustrated by last night’s and this morning’s situation and particularly so on behalf of all the ferry operators’ coach passengers who have had to endure such a long wait at the port.
“Whilst freight and car traffic was processed steadily regardless of the additional challenging weather conditions and high seasonal volumes, coach traffic suffered significant delays due to lengthy French border processes and sheer volume.
“Despite considerable pre-planning with our ferry operators, border agency partners and the Kent Resilience Forum and the success of similar plans for processing substantial numbers of coaches during the most recent half term period, the additional coach bookings taken by ferry operators for Easter, has impacted operations for the port.
“Through the ferry operators and the port, food and drink has been provided to those coach passengers caught up in the border queues. We offer our sincere apologies for the prolonged delays that people have endured and continue to work with all of our partners to get all passengers on their way as quickly as possible.”
- ^ Dover (www.kentonline.co.uk)
- ^ schoolchildren who were reportedly left without food for more than five hours (www.kentonline.co.uk)