‘Bizare revenge for Brexit’: Motorists face Dover traffic chaos

July 25, 2016 7:00 am

People sit and wait with their cars, having reached near to the front of the queue at the Port of Dover. Photo / AP

Frustrated motorists facing days of misery after getting stuck in
miles of gridlocked near Dover have questioned whether the
chaos was caused by the French authorities punishing Britain for leaving
the EU.
The mayhem has left 250,000 drivers stranded in
“horrendous” 10-hour queues after the French border force imposed
thorough security checks in the wake of the terror attack in Nice last
week.
Many holidaymakers were forced to sleep in their vehicles
overnight and worried Brits have posted their fears online that this is
punishment for the referendum vote on June 23.
Police have warned
the disruption on the roads – with cars remaining stationary as
tailbacks stretch for 12 miles – is likely to last for a further two
days.
Social media users on Twitter have questioned whether the
turmoil in Kent is a “ hate crime” while others have suggested the
French authorities are giving Brits a “hard time” by “making it
awkward” following the referendum.

One user asked if the disruption in Dover – just 20 miles
(32kms) from Calais in France – was “payback” from France because the
voted to leave the EU.
At the height of the chaos, just one
member of the French border force was checking passengers’ passports on
hundreds of coaches – taking 40 minutes to check each coach.
Port
authorities said French border control booths at Dover had been
“seriously understaffed” overnight on Friday, with just three of the
seven passport control booths open.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen
questioned why the French had put on extra security checks at Dover when
the British border checks were among the strongest in and
suggested it could have been motivated by last month’s Brexit vote.
Speaking to MailOnline, he said: “Why have they put on extra checks on our border given our security record compared to theirs?
“We wouldn’t exactly be considered the weakest link when it came to European security checks.
“If
it’s a reaction to Brexit – which I hope it’s not – it’s a strange
thing to do to damage their tourism industry as a response a democratic
decision by the British people.”
He added that it could be one of
many “irrational” moves we will see taken by EU countries to stop other
member states seeking to follow Britain out the exit door.
Mr Bridgen said: “The EU will be worried about contagion, which might lead to some illogical things for logical reasons.”
Among the vehicles stranded in the queue on Sunday were a number of international military forces vehicles.

Vehicles queue at the Port of Dover. Photo / AP
Meanwhile, a multiple sclerosis sufferer travelling
to Germany for potentially life-prolonging treatment saw her dash to the
border turn into a 20-hour ordeal.
Tanya Cudworth, 50, was
travelling to a Frankfurt clinic to undergo stem cell treatment for her
condition after raising £5,000 for the trip.
Along with her
partner, Steve Deene, 53, she set off from Tunbridge Wells at 8.30am on
Saturday after waking to of increasing delays at Dover.
Miss
Cudworth, from Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, did not make it onto a
ferry until 4.20am on Sunday and Ms Cudworth described the experience
as “absolutely horrendous”.
She said: “I’m taking the trip to get this treatment that I hope will keep me from having to go in a wheelchair.
“It’s
not available on the NHS and we’ve done some fundraising. It’s a good
job I didn’t have to be at the hospital sooner – 19 hours in the car has
obviously aggravated my symptoms.”
Because of her condition Ms Cudworth, who works for Marston’s brewery, had to travel by road.
She
hoped to nip to Dover, take a short sail across the Channel and
complete the final six-hour drive to Frankfurt on Saturday ahead of her
Monday appointment.
However chances of them making the 10.30am
ferry soon vanished as they found themselves stranded in a virtual
carpark on the A20.
She said: “During the day it was so hot and
there was nowhere near enough water and at night it was pitch black so
you didn’t know what was going on around you. You couldn’t sleep because
you had to keep moving forward.
“We didn’t get any water until
3am and I saw women with babies, young families and people with pets
with no water. It’s shocking that more wasn’t done to get it to people,
the authorities weren’t anywhere to be seen.
“My partner has been a lorry driver since he got his licence and he has never seen anything like it here or abroad.”
As
the situation became desperate the couple decided to turn off the A20
and head for a hotel, but found everywhere was fully booked.
In the end they decided to grit their teeth and carry on crawling towards the port.
She
added: “I don’t know whether the French are just annoyed with us
because of Brexit or we are blaming the French for the delays.
“There’s a chance I will have to come back to Frankfurt for the treatment. If I do I will just have to fly.”

Vehicles queue at the Port of Dover, southern England, as motorists face continued disruption traveling to France. Photo / AP
Conservative chairman Patrick McLoughlin today
condemned the “purely unacceptable” chaos at the border this weekend,
but insisted the situation is not a punishment from the French
government following the Brexit vote.
He said on the Andrew Marr
show: “I think we can understand why the French would want to increase
security after what happened in Nice last week.
“[There was] One
person checking the coaches, as I understand it, and that is just purely
unacceptable. I know there have been discussion between our government
and the French government to make sure that we try and ease the
situation as much as we possibly can.
“But I do think that one
has to acknowledge that the horrendous incident in Nice would have put
the French authorities on much higher alert.”
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said she sympathises with those caught up in the chaos, but said security is “paramount”.
She
said: “The security of our citizens is paramount, and as France acts to
meet the heightened security pressures it faces we are also taking all
necessary action to ensure the border between our two countries remains
secure – whilst also ensuring goods and passengers move as quickly and
efficiently as possible between them.
“I sympathise with everyone
who has been affected by delays at the Port of Dover, and have been
working with colleagues across Government to do all we can to support
the French border authorities to speed up their security checks.
“Border
Force officers have been working around the clock to assist their
French counterparts – and we stand ready to assist in any other way
needed. Highways England has also worked all weekend – alongside Kent
Police, Kent County Council and the Port of Dover – to assist motorists
caught up in the delays.”
British officials have been drafted in
to work with French border police after the Government admitted
motorists had suffered “extraordinary disruption” at Dover. By Sunday
afternoon, police said the backlog had eased but that delays and
disruptions can be expected on the route for the next few weeks.

In this aerial view taken from video, part of the miles long queue of traffic outside Dover. Photo / AP
One female passenger who was affected by the travel
problems on the south coast said she arrived for her 4.30am ferry at
Dover this morning only to be told that there would be major delays as
French authorities were worried about terrorist attacks.
The
woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, was travelling with her family to
their home in the south of France and said there was only booth open
which was checking passports in Dover.
She said: “We arrived at
3am for a 4.30 am ferry at Dover to be told that, due to the French
worries about terrorist attacks, they were checking every car and there
would be major delays.
“Around 5 and a half hours later we made
it onto a ferry. There was only one booth open to check our passports
even though the tail back of traffic was enormous – very few officials
were about.
“I think this was because the one booth open just
could not get enough cars through and the ferries had to leave the port
to make room for others waiting to dock.
“We fully expected chaos at Calais but the port was deserted and we just drove away – no checks from anyone.
“We
arrived in France, drove off the ferry and straight out of the port. We
did not see any security, we were not stopped and were on our way to
the south of France within minutes.”
Father Pranas Venckus, 34,
was travelling to Europe with his wife and family for a two week holiday
when he arrived at the gridlocked south coast in Kent.

He
had four children in the back of the car, including a baby and set off
from Bradford, West Yorkshire, this morning but was queuing for two
hours to get into Dover.
He said: “We’ve been queuing for two
hours. The kids have been very patient so far. We have enough to drink.
The baby is still bottle fed.
“It is frustrating. We heard about the problems on the way down here but there isn’t much information.
“It
is because of extra checks but it’s taking so long. I blame the French.
It feels like a political game. In my opinion it is because of Brexit.”
Exasperated motorists left stranded took to social media to vent their frustration.
Motorist
Allison Dillon tweeted: “Update on journey; still not there 20 hrs
queuing. My niece walked to find food & fainted in petrol station.
Disgrace”.
Renata Roslak said she and her husband left Birmingham at 7pm on Friday and still had not reached the port by Saturday evening.
She
said: “It’s absolutely horrendous. We have maybe moved half a mile in
the last eight hours. There isn’t even somewhere to turn around and head
home.
“I even phoned the police to find out what was happening –
we were told that there weren’t enough staff to cope with the extra
security checks, so ferries are leaving but they aren’t full.”
Amy Capron was travelling through Dover with her husband and children – and was stuck in traffic for some 17-and-a-half hours.
She
said: “After more than 6 hours in traffic we finally get a free bottle
of water from police & coastguard. It’s been so long since we
actually moved that my driver (husband) has actually fallen asleep.”
She and her family even resorted to cooking sausages in their campervan at the side of the road.

Aga
Soja tweeted: “We have been stuck in a queue at Dover for seven hours
now, travelling with kids…no food, no toilet…can anyone do anything?
Local police?”
Kris Mazur spent the night on the A20 and said he had moved about one mile in 10 hours.
He
said people were standing around at the edge of the road having picnics
or sleeping in their cars, adding: “There has been no access to food or
toilets. The motorway is still completely blocked.”
Joerg
Walther and his family, who live in Lincoln, had been stuck around five
miles from Dover since 11am and described the situation as
“unprecedented”.
The 50-year-old IT worker was travelling with
his wife and 12-year-old daughter to his home town of Giessen, near
Frankfurt, taking a ferry crossing to Calais first.
He added: “It’s worrying us that we don’t know the progress. We don’t know what’s going on and how long it’s going to be.”
Another
Twitter user wrote: “We move 100 metres every half an hour. But at
least I have 1lt of water to drink my sorrows away. Dover please let me
go”.
Meanwhile, a team of volunteers were so moved by the plight
of people stranded in lengthy queues heading to Dover that they loaded
up two vehicles with water to hand out to frustrated travellers.
Ravi Singh, 46, and two others brought cereal bars and thousands of bottles of water in a van and pick-up truck from Slough.
The
team, volunteering as part of Khalsa Aid, contacted local police and
authorities at the port, offering to help provide much-needed supplies.
A
police helicopter helped distribute water to motorists on Saturday but
Mr Singh said local officials had been only too happy to take up his
offer of additional aid.
Mr Singh said: “They said ‘Okay, we’ll
take your offer up, when can you deliver?’ So we went to the local cash
and carry with a pick-up truck and a vanload, and drove with our
vehicles full of water.”
The team ended up getting stuck in traffic themselves for hours but were finally able to deliver aid late on Saturday night.

Police
helicopters were drafted in on Saturday afternoon to deliver water to
thousands of stricken motorists – as some 250,000 passengers pass
through Dover on the busiest long weekend of the summer.
By
Saturday evening, police said traffic was queued back 12 miles out of
Dover. The Port tweeted: “There is a 700min wait from Roundhill Tunnel
in Folkestone to Dover and 119min wait from Whitfield to Dover.”
Police said disruption was set to continue “for the next 36 to 48 hours”.
The port said it had no authority over French operations, but had raised the staffing issues with the Government last week.
Miles
of traffic built up on the Kent motorways as a huge backlog of cars,
coaches, lorries and motorhomes built up overnight on Friday into
Saturday.
Once through border checks, there was said to be a
trickle of traffic getting through to the ferries. However even when
motorists have arrived in Dover there is even more traffic and
congestion coming from all directions.
Those stuck on the roads
described the situation as “tragic” and said they were frustrated at the
lack of information as to when the disruption might end.
Despite temperatures peaking at around 22C Saturday afternoon, police have advised people to stay in their cars.
They
said: “Kent Police is urging motorists to remain with their vehicles –
traffic is stop and start and exiting vehicles can be dangerous. Delays
have also been caused by motorists not being with their vehicles when
traffic starts moving.”
Earlier on Saturday motorists described
people getting out of their vehicles to stretch their legs, and children
playing football to entertain themselves.
The Home Office said
late on Saturday evening it would send in the UK Border Force to help
French authorities at the Port of Dover.
Xavier Czerwinsk, a
government official in Calais, told The Sun: “The French border police
have been providing the maximum number of officers available. But it has
been exceptionally busy on the British side.
“And it is an
exceptional situation here due to the state of emergency and level of
security. We need to check 100 per cent of vehicles.”

One motorist said: “People are waiting in the heat, with no toilet, no water. It is horrible”.
Another said: “Where are the police controlling the traffic? I would like to see some traffic control”.
Rob
Jackson left Golcar in West Yorkshire with his partner and two children
at 8am Saturday morning and were still stuck in traffic on their way to
Dover just before midnight.
Mr Jackson told BBC News: “For the
most part coming from Yorkshire has been okay, we avoided the M25
because it was horrendous – I actually drove through London because it
was easier.
“And now here we are.
“We were 14 miles from Dover when the traffic got bad”.
Speaking
some 15 hours after starting his journey, Mr Jackson said he was just
eight miles from the port but had moved just a mile and a half in one
hour.
They had travelled six miles in seven hours.
Once
they had crossed the channel, the Jackson family planned to go from
Calais, driving through France to Italy before spending five or six days
there then back to the south of France, “then going Nice to pay my
respects,” Mr Jackson added.
Nigel Downes, from Wigston, near
Leicester, was stuck in traffic for 12 hours on the M20 before he
reached the Port of Dover with his family.
A Port of Dover
spokesman said: “We have been experiencing an exceptional security
situation at French border controls situated within the Port of Dover.
“French Border Authorities have been operating at a heightened level of security.
“However,
the French border control booths have been seriously understaffed
overnight with only three booths available for tourists out of a
potential seven.
“At one stage, only one French officer was
available to check passengers on hundreds of coaches, resulting in each
coach taking 40 minutes to process.

“The
Port of Dover, which has no authority over French border operations,
raised concerns over French manning levels with the UK Government
earlier this week and the Government, in turn, raised the issue with its
French counterparts.
“The current wait remains lengthy and
passengers should contact ferry operators for information, consider
delaying their departure, and ensure they have plenty of water and food
with them if deciding to travel.
“The Port shares and appreciates
the frustration of the travelling public. We are doing all we can as a
responsible port operator. Our Chief Executive has just spoken with our
Dover MP Charlie Elphicke to help us escalate this once again at
Government level.”
A Government spokeswoman said: “We recognise
the security pressures that French law enforcement organisations are
under at Dover and we have agreed the UK Border Force will assist the
PAF (French border police) with border checks to remove the backlog.
“We understand that there has been extraordinary disruption in the Dover area today but safety is paramount.
“Measures
are also being taken on the approach to the port where Kent Police will
be proactively managing traffic to speed up the process.”
By Saturday morning French officials relaxed their checks to help ease congestion.
A Kent Police spokesman said: “Disruption on the roads leading to Dover is now likely to continue over the next two days.
“Due
to the heightened security checks by the French Authorities and the
large volume of holidaymakers making their way to Europe, motorists are
currently experiencing delays of around 10 hours on the A20, with
approximately 12 miles of queuing traffic back to junction 11 of the
M20.
“Kent Police is working with Highways England and the Port
of Dover to minimise delays as much as possible and get traffic moving.
Motorists
who are setting out are advised to take plenty of food and water and to
check with travel operators before making their trips. If possible,
consider taking alternative routes or altering your travel arrangements.
“Kent
Police is urging motorists to remain with their vehicles – traffic is
stop and start and exiting vehicles can be dangerous.
“In order
to stay safe drink regularly, wear sunscreen and keep vehicles well
ventilated. Also ensure your cars are filled with enough fuel.”
The
Highways Agency added: “Drivers heading to Dover are being advised to
expect severe delays as key routes are heavily congested.
“French
border police at the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel continue to follow
French government requirements to deliver heightened security checks to
keep the traveling public safe following the recent attacks in France.
“All traffic is being advised to use the M20/A20 as the A2 is at a standstill into the Port of Dover.
“Highways
England are working hard with Kent Police, Kent County Council and the
Port of Dover to help do all we can for road users.
“The estimated delay time in Kent is several hours.
“With the summer getaway there are severe delays on the M2/A2, M20/A20 and at Round Hill tunnel.”
Motorists
trapped in huge tailbacks heading to Dover have described their
frustration as food supplies run low – and some turned to music for
distraction.
Lorry drivers and people setting off on holiday have been among those hit by delays on the roads leading to the port.
As
the sun shone and drivers realised they were not going anywhere fast on
Saturday, some stepped out for a kickabout while others played music
and danced.
Footage from the blocked M20 showed young families
dancing along to the sound of a steel drummer accompanied by a
tambourine player.
In another video a man took up his banjo while sitting by a trailer amid traffic at a standstill.
Rachael Mellor said she was getting ready to sleep in her car – despite the fact she could see the port.
Port
of Dover staff spent the night checking on the safety of passengers
stranded in their vehicles and distributing bottles of water.

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