Coach passengers finally get in to Port of Dover after huge delays

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Coach passengers who have been stuck in queues of up to eight hours in Dover have finally made it in to the port.

Traffic delays began on Friday and passengers hoping to get away for their Easter break on Sunday night will face a few more hours waiting to be processed at border controls and then get on a ferry.

P&O Ferries told coach drivers to head straight to the port to join the buffer zone queues, where advance passenger information (API) will be taken, but said “currently there is a 6+ hour wait to reach the border check points”.

In a statement issued on Sunday evening, the Port of Dover said: “All of this weekend’s coach traffic is now contained in the port ready for processing through immigration controls. Coaches have been processed throughout the day along with tourist cars and freight vehicles.

“The Port of Dover continues to work with the ferry operators and border agencies to get the remaining coach passengers on their way as quickly as possible.

“We continue to offer our sincere apologies for the prolonged delays.”

Earlier, Home Secretary Suella Braverman rejected suggestions that Brexit could be the cause of delays at the port as passengers endured long queues and cancelled trips.

Ms Braverman said it would not be fair to view the delays as “an adverse effect of Brexit”.

She told Sophy Ridge On Sunday on Sky News: “What I would say is at acute times when there is a lot of pressure crossing the Channel, whether that’s on the tunnel or ferries, then I think that there’s always going to be a back-up and I just urge everybody to be a bit patient while the ferry companies work their way through the backlog.”

She also downplayed fears that delays at Dover could become a regular occurrence that risks ruining school holiday plans.

Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg
Home Secretary Suella Braverman (Aaron Chown/PA)

Extra sailings were run overnight to try to clear the backlog but by Sunday morning the port still estimated some travellers would face waits of up to eight hours, depending on the ferry operator.

The port previously declared a critical incident and said the delays were “due to lengthy French border processes and sheer volume”.

Port officials said they had been “working round the clock” with ferry operators and border agencies to try to get coach passengers on their way and more than 300 coaches left the port on Saturday, while the freight backlog was cleared and tourist cars had been successfully processed.

On Saturday, passenger Rosie Pearson described the travel scenes in Dover as “carnage” 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.

Charity director Maggie Gordon-Walker, of Brighton, said her son’s school trip to Italy’s Folgarida area had to be cancelled due to health concerns for the tired coach drivers caused by the delays.

Ms Gordon-Walker, who feels the delays have been “exacerbated hugely because of Brexit red tape”, told the PA news agency: “They arrived at Dover around 8pm yesterday (Saturday) and were shunted off to a services near Folkestone.

“They returned to Dover around 2am and stayed in the coach in the queue until 9.20am this morning, when it was decided the trip had to be cancelled on the grounds of health and safety because the coach drivers would have needed a nine-hour rest break upon arrival in France, so the school party would have been travelling for over 48 hours without sleep.”

Easter getaway
Coaches wait to enter the Port of Dover in Kent after extra sailings were run overnight (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy said “a range of factors” have caused the delays, but she claimed the Government had not planned for what was going to happen post-Brexit.

She told Sophy Ridge On Sunday that ministers had “known for a very long time that they needed to make sure that there were resources in place to deal with additional paperwork checks”.

She added: “The point is not whether we left the European Union or not. The point was that we left with a Government that made big promises and once again didn’t deliver.

“I really feel for the families that are trying to get away for an Easter break, people who have been caught up in this chaos, people whose livelihoods are threatened.

“It didn’t need to be this way.

“If the Government got a grip, got down to brass tacks and started doing their actual job, all these things could be avoided.”

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