Summer HELL-idays! French border staff are blamed for FOUR-hour wait at Dover as queue chaos hits Heathrow, Manchester and Bristol airports while fuel protesters plot road blocks on ‘busiest getaway in eight years’ at start of school break

Bosses at the Port of Dover today blamed French staff for a four-hour wait for passengers to board ferries as they declared a ‘critical incident’ on what is the busiest summer getaway on the roads in at least eight years.

Port of Dover chief executive Doug Bannister complained that they had been ‘badly let down’ by ‘insufficiently resourced’ French border controls in Kent which have been ‘woefully inadequate to meet our predicted demand’.

He added that Dover chiefs are ‘deeply frustrated’ by the low staffing and ‘even more deeply regret the consequences that will now be felt by so many’ as families try to head to France to begin their summer holidays.

Meanwhile air passengers faced long queues in parts of London Heathrow, Manchester and Bristol airports this morning on what is expected to be an extremely busy day for air travel after schools the broke up.

With most terms in England and Wales now ending, the RAC said an estimated 18.8million leisure trips are planned in the UK between today and Monday – the most since it began tracking summer getaway numbers in 2014.

And fuel price protests are set to make jams even worse with the ‘Fuel Price Stand Against Tax’ group suggesting demonstrations will be held ‘nationwide’, including in Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool, London and Manchester.

At the Port of Dover this morning, families embarking on summer getaways were being caught in long queues with P&O Ferries saying at about 6.30am that these are ‘in excess of four hours to reach the border controls’.

Manchester Airport this morning

Heathrow Airport this morning

Manchester Airport this morning

Bristol Airport this morning

Bristol Airport this morning

Bristol Airport this morning

Bristol Airport this morning


The ferry company added: ‘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.’

DFDS added: ‘Please allow 4 hours to complete the check in process & border controls at the Port. Please be rest assured that upon arrival at check-in, we will accommodate you onto the next available sailing.’

Rain and thunderstorms forecast for southern England and Wales today 

A day of thunderstorms and heavy showers has been forecast for parts of Wales, the South West and central southern England – in a deluge is set to hit today after days of record-breaking temperatures for the UK.

The Met Office has placed a yellow weather warning across most of south and mid-west Wales, and areas including Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon, Hampshire and Sussex. Slow-moving heavy showers and thunderstorms are predicted between 10am and 10pm.

There is 1in (25mm) of rain expected in less than an hour in some places, with the possibility of up to 2in (50mm) within two to three hours. People can expect to see spray and sudden flooding which could lead to difficult driving conditions and road closures.

Train and bus services could be delayed or cancelled in places with flooding and lightning strikes. There is a slight chance of power cuts, and other services to some homes and businesses could be lost, meteorologists say.

It follows a week in which the UK has for the first time seen temperatures over 40C (104F), with a provisional 40.3C recorded in Coningsby, Lincolnshire, on Tuesday.

The delays are much worse than expected – with the Port having warned last week that passengers should ‘expect average wait times of around 60-90 minutes for French border controls at the port during peak periods’.

The Port of Dover said in a statement: ‘On behalf of passengers trying to get on their way for a well-earned summer holiday, HGV drivers performing their critical role of delivering goods, our community who are severely impacted, our ferry operators awaiting their customers, our own port staff who have worked so hard in good faith and all of our Kent and Government partners with whom we have prepared together over several months for the busy summer; we are deeply frustrated that the resource at the French border overnight and early this morning has been woefully inadequate to meet our predicted demand and even more deeply regret the consequences that will now be felt by so many.

‘Knowing we are now in a new world of post-Brexit and Covid checks, we worked to increase interim French border control booths by 50 per cent and have improved traffic systems in order to build in resilience and capacity in time for the summer. The Port of Dover made significant investment and delivered on this. We trained a new team of passenger champions to be on hand and assist customers at the port.

‘They are there working hard and doing all they can to help them. We also have provided enhanced amenities, such as toilets and refreshments, as well as water refilling stations, to look after customers.’

The statement said that staff at Dover have ‘worked particularly hard, and extremely positively up to now, with our Police Aux Frontieres (PAF) colleagues over recent months to plan for the traffic volumes that were fully expected’.

It continued: ‘We have shared traffic volumes in granular detail with the French authorities in order that these volumes can be matched by adequate border resource. The Dover route remains the most popular sea route to France and France remains one of the key holiday destinations for British families.

‘We know that resource is finite, but the popularity of Dover is not a surprise. Regrettably, the PAF 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.

Heavy traffic on the A102 in South East London this morning at the start of the summer getaway as the schools break up

Heavy traffic on the A102 in South East London this morning at the start of the summer getaway as the schools break up

Heavy traffic on the A102 in South East London this morning at the start of the summer getaway as the schools break up

Heavy traffic on the A102 in South East London this morning at the start of the summer getaway as the schools break up

Heavy traffic on the A102 in South East London this morning at the start of the summer getaway as the schools break up

Heavy traffic on the A102 in South East London this morning at the start of the summer getaway as the schools break up

Heavy traffic on the A102 in South East London this morning at the start of the summer getaway as the schools break up

Heavy traffic on the A102 in South East London this morning at the start of the summer getaway as the schools break up

Heavy traffic on the A102 in South East London this morning at the start of the summer getaway as the schools break up

Heavy traffic on the A102 in South East London this morning at the start of the summer getaway as the schools break up

Heavy traffic on the A102 in South East London this morning at the start of the summer getaway as the schools break up

‘We will continue to work with all Kent partners to look after those caught up in the current situation, which could and should have been avoided, and play our part in resolving it as soon as possible.

Port of Dover blasts ‘woefully inadequate’ French border staffing 

This morning’s Port of Dover statement in full:

‘On behalf of passengers trying to get on their way for a well-earned summer holiday, HGV drivers performing their critical role of delivering goods, our community who are severely impacted, our ferry operators awaiting their customers, our own port staff who have worked so hard in good faith and all of our Kent and Government partners with whom we have prepared together over several months for the busy summer; we are deeply frustrated that the resource at the French border overnight and early this morning has been woefully inadequate to meet our predicted demand and even more deeply regret the consequences that will now be felt by so many.

‘Knowing we are now in a new world of post-Brexit and Covid checks, we worked to increase interim French border control booths by 50% and has improved traffic systems in order to build in resilience and capacity in time for the summer. The Port of Dover made significant investment and delivered on this. We trained a new team of passenger champions to be on hand and assist customers at the port. They are there working hard and doing all they can to help them. We also have provided enhanced amenities, such as toilets and refreshments, as well as water refilling stations, to look after customers.

‘We have worked particularly hard, and extremely positively up to now, with our Police Aux Frontieres (PAF) colleagues over recent months to plan for the traffic volumes that were fully expected. We have shared traffic volumes in granular detail with the French authorities in order that these volumes can be matched by adequate border resource. The Dover route remains the most popular sea route to France and France remains one of the key holiday destinations for British families. We know that resource is finite, but the popularity of Dover is not a surprise. Regrettably, the PAF 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.

‘We will continue to work with all Kent partners to look after those caught up in the current situation, which could and should have been avoided, and play our part in resolving it as soon as possible. Working with and through the UK government, we will also liaise constructively with PAF to work through the present logjam and to stress again the importance of adequate French border resource for the coming days and weeks on which we had previously been assured. We have to work as a team, and when we do the system works incredibly well, but it is reliant on every team member playing their part.’

‘Working with and through the UK government, we will also liaise constructively with PAF to work through the present logjam and to stress again the importance of adequate French border resource for the coming days and weeks on which we had previously been assured.

‘We have to work as a team, and when we do the system works incredibly well, but it is reliant on every team member playing their part.’

Meanwhile leisure traffic volumes look set to peak tomorrow, a survey of 1,700 UK motorists suggested.

Transport analytics company Inrix believes the M25 – London’s orbital motorway – could see some of the worst jams, 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 at various points this weekend.

RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said the organisation expects the summer getaway to ‘begin with a bang as a potentially record-breaking number of drivers take to the roads this coming weekend – and that’s despite the unbelievably high cost of fuel’.

He continued: ‘With school terms in England and Wales finishing this week and millions of people ready for a well-earned break, we anticipate a frantic Friday followed by a woeful weekend on major roads across the country, with traffic and congestion likely peaking on Saturday.

‘The advice to drivers heading off on a holiday by car is therefore clear – leave as early as you can in the morning or expect to be sat in some lengthy queues.’

Inrix transport analyst Bob Pishue said: ‘Drivers should expect traffic congestion to build throughout the day, especially on motorways.

‘Despite high fuel prices, travellers do not appear to be giving up their road trips and holidays.’

National Highways head of road safety Jeremy Phillips said: ‘With schools breaking up for summer soon there will be more people on the roads and taking longer journeys.

‘We know that breaking down can be a very upsetting experience, nobody wants to start off their holiday stranded at the side of the road, next to fast moving traffic.

‘So we are reminding drivers to check their vehicles, particularly the tyres, before setting off.’

Meanwhile fuel protests are set to make traffic jams even bigger, with Avon and Somerset Police warned motorists that ‘slow-moving roadblocks’ are planned on parts of the M4, M5, M32 and A38 this morning.

Superintendent Tony Blatchford urged drivers 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 today’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.

Climate protesters caused major disruption on Wednesday by climbing onto signs above the M25.

Use FlightRadar24 to track the exact aircraft that will be flying your route: Travel expert NICKY KELVIN reveals an ‘expert level hack’ to know if you could face delays

By NICKY KELVIN

A number of UK airports have seen widespread disruption in recent months, with reports from disgruntled passengers of excessive queues at all stages of their airport journey.

 From check-in, security checks, issues with baggage claim and the risk of flights being cancelled – all resulting in the unprecedented disruption like we’ve never seen before.

With the peak summer holiday season about to get underway, travellers should be prepared for the problems to persist and we’d recommend allowing plenty of time to get to the airport and through the various stages before departure. 

We would suggest taking public transport to airports, rather than driving which can cause additional stress and delays.

To mitigate queues at security, many airports sell access to priority security queues for around £5, which is a solid investment to save hours of queuing to get through a normally stressful stage of the airport experience. 

Before heading to the airport, stay up to date with the latest information. 

Check airport arrival and departure boards online and keep an eye on your airline’s website to ensure that your flight is still proceeding as normal. 

For an expert level hack, I would recommend using FlightRadar24 which allows you to track the exact aircraft that will be flying your route. 

You’re then able to see where this plane is and whether it has made it out of its previous destination. 

Having this information will put you ahead of other passengers (and potentially even some airline staff) to help you determine whether you will be encountering any delays ahead of your trip.

Finally, If your flight is cancelled or delayed, you may be entitled to compensation and depending on the circumstances, you should conduct proper research to find out what money you may be owed. 

Travellers should be aware of UK261/EU261 legislation which protects them for flight cancellations and delays and provides very passenger-favourable rights and remedies, some more unknown, like the right to be rerouted even on different airlines if your flight has been cancelled.

Nicky Kelvin is head of travel website The Points Guy UK 

Source: Read Full Article