Sunday, 3 April 2022

Dover cross-Channel ferry disruption begins to ease

Image caption,
Part of the M20 has been turned into a lorry park for freight vehicles attempting to reach Calais

The Port of Dover says many roads approaching the ferry terminal are now “free-flowing” after disruption on Saturday led to waits of up to nine hours for drivers.

Capacity at the port had been reduced due to the suspension of P&O services.

Despite two DFDS vessels also being taken out of action, services had been coping well until a surge in demand, due to Easter travellers.

The port added there was “space in the port for those arriving today”.

Freight traffic is still being advised to use the M20 as the “quickest route”.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast on Sunday, Richard Ballantyne, chief executive of the British Ports Association, said: “It is a bit better today, we understand. Yesterday we were up to nine-hour queues outside the port,”

“Traffic measures are in place, which… are working fairly well and it enables other people around east Kent and businesses, residents… to move around freely. But [it is] not a good position if you’re stuck in a vehicle for six to eight hours.”

Operation Brock has seen part of the M20 turned into a lorry park, for freight, while other traffic is using the opposite carriageway as a contraflow.

Traffic ‘bedlam’

Using a concrete barrier between Ashford and Maidstone, the measure was originally introduced to keep traffic moving amid fears a no-deal Brexit would lead to delays at the border.

Despite traffic flow improving since Saturday, a coach driver trying to get to Austria described the scene in Dover first thing on Sunday as “bedlam”, with too many cars and lorries trying to get on too few ferries.

Image caption,
Lorry driver Stuart Orme said he was stuck for over six hours on Saturday

Elena Noseda meanwhile was left stuck in queues with her husband and two young children as they attempted to reach Calais on Saturday.

“We have not received any information from local authorities or DFDS. When we arrived, no-one gave us any information,” she said.

‘Treated like animals’

Lorry driver Stuart Orme told BBC South East on Saturday he had been stuck between junctions eight and nine of the M20 for more than six hours and had moved less than 0.6 miles (1km) in that time.

“We’re being treated like animals. No welfare, no toilet facilities and no information. We’re just left here,” Mr Orme said.

“We’re trying to get to the Ashford truck stop because we won’t get over [to the destination] today. They won’t let us go down the middle of the queue to get to Ashford to use facilities.”

Image source, MATTHIAS MUELLERImage caption,
Traffic jams spread beyond the M20 to surrounding roads

DFDS said it had continued sailings throughout the night, rather than stopping for maintenance work, in a bid to clear the backlog.

It added that two of its ferries, which have been out of action, were expected to be back in service by the end of the week.

Traffic problems spread beyond the M20 to surrounding roads and the centre of Dover. While still busy, a spokesperson for the Port of Dover said that was easing.

Local MP Natalie Elphicke blamed P&O for the problems – the firm has yet to be given permission to resume sailings to France since sacking 800 staff last month.

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