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Dover queue concerns raised with France 'days before gridlock'

Published 25/07/2016

Vehicles queuing at the Port of Dover in Kent
Vehicles queuing at the Port of Dover in Kent

Concerns about long queues at Dover were raised with the French government "days before the situation developed", the company managing the port said.

Tailbacks reached 12 miles over the weekends and s ome holidaymakers were forced to wait for 15 hours on gridlocked roads.

The Port of Dover issued a statement which read: " We raised concerns over French manning levels with the UK Government days before the situation developed, and the Government, in turn, raised the issue with its French counterparts.

"We are determined to continue working with the UK authorities to find a way of ensuring that French border control posts are suitably staffed in future."

The company thanked customers for their " incredible fortitude and good humour" during the chaos and insisted that " border policy can only be resolved by governments".

Police said the disruption was down to a "vast volume of holiday traffic" coupled with delays caused by heightened security at the border in the wake of terror attacks.

Increased checks were put in place by French authorities at the port but questions have been raised about staffing levels to deal with the huge number of people travelling at this time.

UK Border Force officials have since been drafted in to work with French border police.

Some travellers spent the night in their cars as they tried in vain to get to Dover on gridlocked roads.

Delays eased on Monday but motorists were warned to expect some disruption for weeks to come.

The head of the port of Calais said he is "ashamed" about the congestion.

Jean-Marc Puissesseau, president of the Cote d'Opale Chamber of Commerce, which runs the port of Calais, insisted he would complain to the French authorities about the failure to prepare for increased border checks.

Mr Puissesseau told BBC Radio 4's Today show: "I am very ashamed of this situation.

"I am so sorry for the British passengers starting their holiday with so long wait because of control."

He added: "When we know that there will be big traffic, as it was yesterday because it was starting holidays, it should be organised.

"And if the French police is obliged now to control because of all the terrorism we are facing, I can understand it, but what I cannot understand is that they don't put enough policemen to control.

"I can tell you when I finish the call with you I will call the Home Office and tell them it is unacceptable."

Downing Street rejected suggestions that the delays may be a French retaliation for Brexit.

The Prime Minister's official spokeswoman said: "I don't think there's any evidence to suggest that.

"What we know has happened is that France has suffered one of its worst terrorist attacks and put in security measures in place as a result.

"And we have the busiest weekend at the port of the year so far."

Helen Deeble, chief executive of P&O Ferries, said holidaymakers were delayed for " completely unacceptable lengths of time" and insisted the situation "must never be allowed to happen again".

She said: " Increased security checks at the border are completely understandable but the French authorities must provide adequate numbers of staff to ensure that these checks can be processed quickly and efficiently.

"The failure to do so at the weekend was the primary cause of the delays."

Ms Deeble insisted that P &O Ferries did "everything we could to keep passengers moving" by providing extra sailings and more staff.

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