What's Going On With The Traffic In Dover? Here's Everything You Need To Know

It is reportedly taking around six hours for passengers to reach Dover Port's ferry terminal.
Queues at Dover Port
Queues at Dover Port
Gareth Fuller - PA Images via Getty Images

Tens of thousands of travellers are caught in six-hour long queues leading to the Port of Dover this Friday, just as most school holidays begin.

While the queues are not exclusive to Dover – people are facing delays in London, Heathrow, Manchester and Bristol airports, too – this gridlock has now been declared as a critical incident.

As Brexit debates rear their head again, here’s what you need to know.

What’s happening in Dover?

Both travellers and freight vehicles are stuck in queues leading from the port terminal into Dover town, just to get through the border checks.

The Port of Dover has subsequently called it a “critical incident”, as the busiest summer getaway in around eight years begins. The RAC believes around 18.8 million leisure trips have been planned in the UK this weekend, the most since its records began in 2014, and National Highways said the weekend is expected to be one of the busiest periods of the year.

The delays are so severe, the port has apologised to everyone affected and even advised people who are booked onto ferries not to attempt to get to Dover at all this morning.

P&O Ferries, one of the passenger operators from Dover, tweeted: “Please arrive prepared for a prolonged wait –carry snacks and additional water with you.”

The firm also warned people of six hour delays for security checks to be cleared.

How is this impacting people who aren’t travelling?

The leader of Dover District Council, Trevor Bartlett told the BBC that the local community was the “biggest loser” in this scenario.

He claimed: “Residents can’t get to work, children are stranded on school buses stuck in the mayhem, and businesses are suffering. Stagecoach has suspended bus services in Dover altogether.”

He also asked how would the emergency services be able to respond if a crisis were to occur in this area due to congestion.

The Eurotunnel (based in Folkestone in Kent) remains unaffected, but does not have capacity to take passengers from Dover.

Why are some people blaming the French?

The port has been openly blaming France for the delays. It’s believed out of the 12 passport booths run by the French authorities, only six are currently open.

Since the UK left the EU, passports have to be checked on British soil by the French before passengers can cross the Channel and head into France.

The Port of Dover is therefore blaming the “woefully inadequate” French border control staff, who had “badly let down” the port.

Dover claims it has made “significant investment” to increase its capacity to process passengers by 50% for the summer, and supposedly shared its traffic volume forecasts “in granular detail” with its French authorities.

It said: “We know that resource is finite, but the popularity of Dover is not a surprise. Regrettably, the PAF [police aux frontieres] 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.”

Dover MP, Natalie Elphicke, even went so far as to allege some French border officials “didn’t turn up for work”, but added: “More French officers are reported to be arriving. It’s vital that the French passports controls are fully staffed during this peak holiday period.”

Europe minister Graham Stewart said some disruption was inevitable, due to the number of vehicles, but again blamed the French authorities not the UK Border Force, adding: “It’s their ability to cope and process people that is causing the backlog.”

Why are others blaming Brexit?

While some people are blaming the French authorities, others are blaming Brexit, as it removed the freedom of movement for the UK.

It means passports now have to be stamped for anyone crossing into France (or any other EU country) in the post-Brexit era.

Twitter users were quick to blame Brexit, rather than the French authorities, for this delay,

Before You Go