Dover delays: Long waits for bus passengers continue

  • Written by Malu Corsino and Emily McGarvey
  • BBC News

image source, Anthony Jones

photo caption,

Coach driver Anthony Jones – who sent this photo – described a “frustrating” situation with queues at the port

Travelers in Dover are still queuing to catch ferries to France after waiting more than 12 hours – although port authorities say the situation is now improving for the new arrivals.

Speaking to the BBC on Sunday night, parents spoke of carts full of children still waiting to cross the canal after arriving late on Saturday.

Port managers said all traffic within the port is now ready for processing.

Disruptions and delays were first reported Friday night.

The extra ferries put in on Saturday night were not enough to prevent queues at Dover for most of Sunday.

Officials cited slower border procedures and more coaches than expected as reasons for the delay.

The port said late Sunday that about 40 buses were still awaiting immigration procedures, down from 111 earlier in the day.

P&O Ferries said about 20 coaches are still waiting to board their ferries and that their wait time will be about five hours.

The company had previously said wait times were around 10 hours, although several bus passengers and drivers contacted the BBC to say their waits were in fact much longer.

One of the drivers who took a group from Cardiff to Austria said they had been in the car for 14 hours.

image source, Jennifer V

photo caption,

The coach’s passengers ended up camping on the floor of a service station in Folkestone, due to delays in nearby Dover

The lady sent in footage to the BBC of passengers camped out on the grounds of a service station in nearby Folkestone – where buses were “piled” due to delays at the port.

Coach driver Zeeshan Aslam was driving a group of schoolchildren from Cheltenham to Italy. He told the BBC they all arrived in Dover at 14:00 BST on Friday and were finally on a ferry at 03:30 on Saturday.

The group has now reached its final destination, but Mr Aslam said they will return to the UK on Friday and he dreads considering the situation with ferries at that time.

Mr. Aslam said the situation was “absolutely absurd”. “It is as if it was deliberately caused to deter bus drivers and schoolchildren from travelling.”

image source, Zeeshan Aslam

Rob Howard, a teacher in Dorset traveling by coach with a group of schoolchildren, was on his way to northern Italy via Dover.

Mr. Howard said they arrived at the port at 16:00 on Saturday, but the group decided to turn around after waiting more than 17 hours.

Passengers were given a piece of chocolate and less than a bottle of water during those 17 hours, he said, and “there was a smell of urine everywhere” as some of the carriages’ toilets leaked.

The government said it was in close contact with the port authorities.

She said she sympathized with the families and school children trying to get away over the Easter break, and expected the problems to go away soon.

Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow settlement secretary, told Sky News issues such as port delays could have been avoided “if the government got its grip on it, and started doing the actual job”.

Officials explained that prolonged border delays were partly to blame — ferry companies said bad weather disrupted some trips.

The port said ferry companies took 15% more bus bookings for the Easter period than expected. Indoor passenger buses are much slower than boarding cars.

Responding to allegations of prolonged delays in border checks, officials in northern France said on Saturday that there were “no difficulties that we are aware of”, but that many of the coaches had arrived to travel around the same time.

French officials added that all border checkpoints are operational and that border police have converted some vehicle checkpoints into coach spaces.

Simon Calder, The Independent’s travel correspondent, said processing times since the UK left the EU have increased sharply “and that seems to explain the delay”.

He told the BBC on Saturday that the EU border at Dover meant things were “on fire”, with every individual passport having to be scanned and stamped post-Brexit.

Speaking to Sky News, Braverman said viewing the port delay as a “negative effect of Brexit” would not be a fair assessment.

‘no connection’

Many of the coaches stuck in Dover have been taking schoolchildren from across the UK on school trips abroad.

Teacher Sarah Dalby told the BBC her group had started their journey from Nottinghamshire and 24 hours later they were still in line at passport control in Dover.

Worksop College’s head of science added, “No one spoke to us the whole time. No information available. No food or water.”

The port apologized for the “prolonged delays” and said the munitions had been cleared.

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