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The Epoch Times
The Epoch Times
1 Apr 2023

NextImg:Port of Dover Declares Critical Incident as Coaches Stuck in Easter Gridlock

Coach passengers continue to facing hours of delay at the port of Dover on Saturday after a critical incident was declared on Friday night.

High traffic volume due to the Easter holiday was cited as one of the reasons, along with “challenging weather conditions” and “lengthy French border processes.”

Some passengers were stuck for as long as 14 hours.

Just before 9 a.m. on Saturday, a spokesman for the port said: “Coach waiting time is still several hours, but tourist cars are getting through OK.”

Ferry operators P&O Ferries and DFDS Seaways also reported delays. By around 2:30 p.m., P&O Ferries said on Twitter that passengers should expect two to three hours of waiting time.

Replying to one of the comments that said the delays seems to be a lot longer, a spokesperson for the company said it’s hard to give an estimate, and that “it could be around 10 hours start to finish” overall.

The Port of Dover said in a statement on Saturday that it’s “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,” the statement reads.

“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.”

The port said food and drink has been provided to coach passengers in the queues, adding: “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.”

P&O Ferries said on Friday night that the delay was “due to the time it is taking to process each vehicle at French border controls.” It also said it has put on extra sailings on Friday night, Saturday morning, and Saturday night to help clear the backlog.

DFDS also reported “Severe delays at French Border Controls” on Friday night and that the wait time for coaches was approximately seven hours from arrival at the port.

Passengers by their coach at the Port of Dover in Kent, England, on April 1, 2023. (Gareth Fuller/PA)

One man, part of a group of 19 adults and 14 children who have been stuck in Port of Dover traffic for more than 14 hours, described being “shellshocked” by the wait.

Dafydd Francis, a Physical Education teacher from Seven Sisters, Neath, is one of 33 people travelling from South Wales to Saalbach-Hinterglemm in Austria.

They arrived at the port at 11 p.m. on Friday night and were still awaiting boarding on Saturday lunchtime.

“[I’ve] never seen anything like this,” Francis, 49, told the PA news agency.

“We will arrive at the resort 14 hours late if we are lucky… I have organised various trips since 1998 for school and family and friends, approximately 50 trips. We will fly next time.

“We all feel angry but shellshocked at the situation.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged the government to “get a grip” on the situation at Dover.

“I really feel for people trying to get through Dover. There will have been families who have booked holidays and now they are frustrated yet again and I think the nature of the frustration will be ‘not again,’” the opposition party leader said.

“This is not the first time there have been problems at Dover. The government needs to get a grip of this,” he said.

“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 in who are just trying to get away for a few days holiday.”

A government spokesperson said: “The UK Government remains in close contact with ferry operators, the French authorities, and the Kent Resilience Forum, regarding delays at the Port of Dover.

“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.”

PA Media contributed to this report.

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