Port of Dover ferries sail through the night to clear ‘critical incident’ delays by Sunday lunchtime
More ferries will travel across the English Channel in a bid to clear the backlog which has left passengers spend hours of their Easter holidays in queues at the Port of Dover.
A spokesman for the port, which has declared a critical incident, said it was hoping to clear the traffic by lunchtime on Sunday.
Some passengers have complained of being held up for 14 hours, with the port blaming strong winds, “lengthy French border processes and sheer volume” for the build up of traffic at the gates.
P&O Ferries updated passengers on the delays on Saturday evening in a tweet stating: “We apologise for the wait times for coaches this weekend.
“We have put on additional sailings overnight to help clear the backlog of traffic. Once coaches reach our check in desks they will be on the next crossing to Calais.”
The firm had also stated that coaches at the Cruise terminal were still facing a wait time of up to 3.5 hours before they can proceed to the Port of Dover.
It added: “Once they are in the buffer zone at the entrance to the port the wait is approximately another 3-4 hours. We apologise for delays.”
The port spokesman said: “There is still the on-going situation at the Port but both DFDS and P&O are adding additional departures overnight. Vessels usually have a longer layover at night but they will be running back and forth to clear as much as they can.
“At present, we anticipate the backlog around lunchtime tomorrow but the extra sailings could well reduce that time.”
It came after a day in which a port spokesman said he was “deeply frustrated” on Saturday as coach traffic faced “significant delays”.
Additional coach bookings taken by ferry operators for Easter had impacted upon operations, a statement on the port’s website said on Saturday morning.
Just before 9am, a spokesman for the port said: “Coach waiting time is still several hours, but tourist cars are getting through OK.”
P&O Ferries also apologised for the wait times for coaches sailing from Dover, while DFDS advised passengers to allow extra time to complete border and check-in controls.
The port said food and drink had been provided to coach passengers in the queues.
Traveller Rosie Pearson said it was “carnage” in Dover as she was stuck for 16 hours with her husband and two teenagers.
Ms Pearson, 50, is an environmental campaigner from Essex and was travelling to Val d’Isere in the French Alps on an overnight bus.
It was due to arrive at 2.15pm on Saturday, but they expected they would probably not make it until 6am on Sunday due to delays in Dover.
“The whole thing was a shambles… Not a single bit of communication,” Ms Pearson told the PA news agency.
“It was carnage. The worst thing was that no-one told us anything for the whole 16 hours, literally nothing.
“(We are) very tired but people are resigned now and relieved to be en route. Shocking that something this chaotic can happen. My children’s school has a ski trip this week (they are not on it, with us instead) and their bus was turned away last night – they had to sleep at a service station and come back this morning.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged the Government to “get a grip” of 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’,” he said.
“This is not the first time there have been problems at Dover. The Government needs to get a grip of this.
“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, who are just trying to get away for a few days’ holiday.”
A Government spokesman 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.”