British holidaymakers face second day of traffic gridlock on key route to France

The peak in road traffic comes as travel chaos continues to plague the UK. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - British holidaymakers headed into a second day of chaos amid huge queues at a key departure point for France, with the head of Dover port warning that Saturday (July 23) could be even busier.

Mr Doug Bannister, the chief executive of the Port of Dover, told the BBC's Today programme that about 10,000 cars may be processed out of the port, up from 8,500 on Friday, when traffic backed up for miles adding hours to crossing times.

P&O Ferries tweeted a warning to travellers to allow three to four hours to clear the approach roads to Dover and get through security checks. Those who miss their ferry boardings will be on the first available one once at check-in, P&O said.

The disruptions come during one of the peak travel weekends of the summer, with many families going on holiday after British schools shut. The peak in road traffic comes as travel chaos continues to plague the UK, with staff shortages disrupting air travel and strikes and extreme temperatures hampering trains.

Port of Dover and the UK's Department for Transport both blamed a shortage of French border control staff for Friday's hold-ups at Europe's busiest ferry port.

Mr Bannister said that the French border controls appeared to be fully staffed today, though delays continued. In response, Mr Georges-François Leclerc, state representative for the Haut-de-France region, said this weekend's traffic increase had been expected and prepared for in conjunction with the Border Force and transport companies.

However, "an unforeseeable technical incident" on Friday morning in the Channel Tunnel, which runs parallel to the ferry routes, had prevented staff from fully deploying on Friday, he said. Ms Lucy Morton, professional officer for the ISU, a union for borders and immigration, suggested Brexit was also playing a part.

"It's certainly the case that the checks are more rigorous than they used to be. Prior to Brexit there was a deemed right of entry - we weren't in Schengen but there were still very minimal checks," she told the BBC. "Frequently there were no French checks at all."

Recommendations from the RAC and analytics specialists INRIX are for drivers to plan well ahead and start their journeys "either very early in the morning or later in the evening" to avoid queues. The worst jams are expected on the M25 according to data from INRIX.

Stretches between Bromley and the Dartford Crossing, Maple Cross to the M3 and the M23 to the M40 also look set for the worst of the traffic. The A303 near Stonehenge, M4 between Cardiff and Newport and M5 south of Bristol are also likely to see queuing traffic.

Despite UK fuel prices having risen 42.3 per cent in the last year, British drivers continue to buy more and are shaping up for a weekend of driving for a getaway. According to RAC Fuel Watch, the cost of filling a 55-litre family car with petrol is up £30 (S$50) from last summer, and £42 on 2020.

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