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Travellers from UK to France face third day of delays

Passengers travelling to France are facing further delays on Sunday, but congestion at the port of Dover appeared to have eased as authorities worked overnight to reduce the backlog of cars and lorries on the roads.

Travellers from UK to France face third day of delays
Ferries docked in the Port of Dover on the south-east coast of England in April 2022 (Photo by Ben Stansall / AFP)

The traffic heading to the Eurotunnel terminal was the prime concern on Sunday, the AA told the BBC.

“Due to Operation Brock [a queuing system to manage freight traffic on the M20], stacking lanes of lorries, which need to be cleared and the subsequent diversion of passenger traffic onto the A20 merging at the terminal, we are still seeing lengthy delays here,” said AA head of roads policy Jack Cousens, adding that the Port of Dover seemed “reasonably quiet” by contrast.

Dover was busy, but Folkestone was “chaos”, BBC reporter Simon Jones said earlier from the scene.

“Drivers are struggling to get to the Eurotunnel terminal. Part of the M20 is shut to park 600 lorries – so the rest of the traffic is being diverted onto other roads, and those roads simply can’t cope”, he reported.

The Kent Resilience Forum, the body that coordinates emergency planning for the county, also distributed food and drink to passengers stuck in their cars overnight.

Fortunately, once people make it to the terminal, they should ‘only’ have a couple of hours to wait to get on to a train, as these are running normally.

READ ALSO: Are the French really to blame for Dover travel chaos?

Car numbers were also expected to be slightly lower on Sunday – 7,000 compared with 8,500 on Saturday, Eurotunnel said.

You can see Eurotunnel travel updates here.

P&O ferries said in a tweet that queues at the entrance had eased.

The time to clear passport control had reduced to 30 minutes from an hour earlier on Sunday.

And the port of Dover said in a statement: “The backlog of tourist passengers that was generated on Friday has also now been cleared, along with successfully getting Saturday’s holidaymakers on their way.”

Around 72,000 passengers had been processed by Sunday morning with over 6,000 cars expected to cross over the whole day.

Major incident
Authorities in the English port of Dover declared a major incident on Saturday and passengers were told to expect four-hour waits as British and French authorities trade blame for the post-Brexit travel problems.

On Saturday morning the BBC was reporting that authorities in Kent declared a major incident in and around Dover because of traffic problems, while P&O Ferries warned passengers to expect a three to four hour-wait to clear security checks.

Reporter Simon Jones said that at 8.44am there were already 3,000 lorries queuing on the M20 and traffic was building at the port.

P&0 Ferries said that anyone booked on a ferry from Dover should allow three to four hours of waiting time – people who miss their crossing will be transferred automatically onto the next available sailing.

While many people had to queue for six hours to get through border controls at Dover on Friday, Saturday could be even worse, according to Dover port chief executive Doug Bannister.

He told the BBC’s Today radio programme there could be further five to six-hour delays at the port again on Saturday.

“Yesterday, we processed about 8,500 cars going out. Today, we were predicted to be around 10,000, so it’s going to be a very busy day down here,” he said.

By 12.45pm on Saturday, the Port of Dover said more than 17,000 passengers had already gone through.

Queues for the port snaked through Dover and surrounding roads, stretching miles, with lorries backed up the M20 motorway leading to the town.

A traffic management system was rolled out on the M20 to manage the high volume of lorries backed up towards Dover.

That included closing parts of the motorway to non-freight traffic and diverting cars towards the port and the Eurotunnel by other routes.

Eurotunnel, meanwhile, said its train shuttle services for vehicles between nearby Folkestone and Coquelles in northern France were two hours behind schedule on Saturday.

However, the operator assured travellers they would be put on the next available service if they missed their scheduled departure.

The blame game
This weekend is the peak getaway for British holidaymakers since most English and Welsh schools broke up for the summer holidays last week.

On Friday, passengers faced waits of six hours to get into the port of Dover, a situation that port officials said was entirely the fault of French border officials.

“Despite the Port of Dover… preparing over several months for the busy summer period, we are deeply frustrated that the resource at the French border overnight and early this morning has been woefully inadequate,” the port said in a statement.

French officials, however, strongly refuted the British statement, saying that reports in the UK press “must be corrected”.

Georges-François Leclerc, Préfet of the Nord area of France, said that high demand due to the start of the UK school holidays had been anticipated with extra staffing levels, but that a technical incident in the Channel Tunnel meant that border agents travelling from France to work in Dover were one hour late on Friday morning.

He added that all agents were at their posts by 9.45 am, saying: “At this time, the traffic difficulties in the Channel Tunnel have been resolved, but very congested road traffic was still observed in British territory, with slowdowns spread over several kilometres.”

He said that “the fluidity of flows at the port of Dover is the joint responsibility of a set of actors, including shipping companies, the port of Dover and the British authorities.”

This summer represents the first time that normal passenger numbers have been recorded since the end of the Brexit transition period in January 2021, which heralded a host of new regulations for travellers between France and the UK.

Travel to France: What has changed since Brexit 

The Le Touquet agreement means that both French and British border checks are carried out before boarding in Dover.

To add to the problems, travel hubs around Europe have been reporting delays over the summer due to staff shortages.

Passengers on the Eurostar reported long queues at the London and Paris terminals, with the problems especially bad in London.

On Friday, motorist Stephen Hutchinson told The Local: “We got to Folkestone at about 9am and then it took us six-and-a-half hours just to get to the port at Dover, the traffic was almost totally solid.

“We were also diverted off the motorway and through Dover, which was completely congested.

“Once we arrived at the port in the afternoon, all the lanes for checks seemed to be open; there were six lanes for French passport control checks and all of them were open and staffed – but after that, all the cars and vans were filtered into a single lane for check-in, so obviously that caused traffic to back up.”

A frequent traveller for work reasons, Stephen had returned to the UK the previous week with work gear and had to wait for four hours at Dover for an official to stamp his carnet – the post-Brexit paperwork requirement for people travelling with certain types of equipment.

Member comments

  1. The Conservative Brexit plans never ever took the British travelling public into consideration, when laying out Brexit it was all about profit and not sovereignty trade or immigration.
    The French border force employees live in France and travel everyday to the UK, the same only in reverse happens to UK border force employees working in France. The Eurostar trains are the quickest connection and use by many to all of these officials, a delay on trains at peak times always has a knock on effect.
    Brexit took us back to before we joined the EU and these regulations need many extra staff to perform all the border checks as we are now foreigners where in the EU we used to be partners.
    How many times are we hearing about staff shortages throughout the UK, the EU is suffering this as well, The UK answer is to enforce certain staff work longer hours now not restricted by the EU working conditions policy, the EU staff are still protected by this and cannot be enforced to work longer hours.
    This holiday period is going to show us that delays are going to be a way of life, as we got very use to the quick and free movement being a member of the EU.

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READER INSIGHTS

Readers reveal: The best beaches and coastal resorts in France

The Local asked readers for their top tips for places to visit along the French coast and we were overwhelmed with suggestions for beautiful beaches, off-the-beaten-track villages and lively resorts.

Readers reveal: The best beaches and coastal resorts in France

The Local has been seeking out France’s best coastline in recent weeks, after a disagreement on an episode of our Talking France podcast where Editor Emma Pearson defended La Vendée as home to the best (and most underrated) coastline in the country, while journalist Genevieve Mansfield fought for Brittany. 

To settle the debate, The Local asked its readers to share their favourite place to go on France’s shores, and the results are in, along with exclusive recommendations:

Brittany wins

Almost half (48 percent) of those who responded to The Local’s survey about the best part of France’s coastline voted for Brittany. 

Where to go

Several people recommended the Morbihan département.

Angela Moore, said her favourite part of this area was the islet between Vannes and Lorient, which is home to romanesque chapel and the Etel river oyster, a delicacy in the area. 

Others chose the Morbihan for its “lovely little coves, wonderful beaches and seafood,” as well as for boat rides in the gulf. Meanwhile, some pointed out Carnac, as a spot to visit, as the town is known for its prehistoric standing stones.

Some preferred travelling further north in Brittany, and they recommended the Finistère départment.

Rebecca Brite, who lives in Paris’ 18th arrondisement, said she loves this part of France for the overall atmosphere. Her top recommendation was to “Go all the way to the Baie des Trépassés and stay at the old, traditional hotel-restaurant of the same name. Pretend you’re in the legendary kingdom of Ys, swallowed up by the sea on this very site.”

The other part of Brittany that came highly recommended was the Emerald Coast (Côtes d’Armour) – specifically the Côte de Granit Rose.

The Mediterranean coastline

The Mediterranean remained a very popular vacation spot for readers of The Local, with almost a third of respondents claiming it as their favourite part of the French coastline. From sailing to cliffs and architecture, the Mediterranean had a bit of everything according to The Local’s readers.

Cassis and the Calanques were among of the most popular responses for where to go and what to see in this part of France.

One respondent, Gini Kramer, said she loves this part of France because “There’s nothing like climbing pure white limestone cliffs rising right out of the sea. The hiking is spectacular too.”

Some counselled more lively parts of the riviera, like the old port in Marseille, while others suggested the quieter locations.

David Sheriton said he likes to go to the beaches of Narbonne: “It’s a gentle slope into the sea so great for the (grand)children.” He said that the area does have a “few bars and restaurants” but that it does not “attract the party crowds.” 

In terms of beautiful villages, Èze came recommended for being home to “the most breathtaking views of the French coastline,” according to reader Gregg Kasner.

Toward Montpellier, Dr Lindsay Burstall said that La Grande Motte was worth visiting, for its “coherent 60’s architecture.” Burstall proposed having “a chilled pression au bord de la mer while watching the world go by…”

Meanwhile, three readers listed locations near Perpignan, and all encouraged visiting the area’s “pre-historic sites.”

Sally Bostley responded that her favourite areas were “between Canet-Plage and Saint-Cyprien-Plage” and she advised visiting “Collioure, Banyuls with the aquarium, Perpignan, nearby prehistoric sites, Safari Park, Prehistory Park.”

Other parts of the coastline

Though these locations may have received less votes overall, they still stood our in the minds of The Local readers:

Normandy did not receive as many votes as its neighbour Brittany, it is still home to unique attractions worth visiting. The WWII landing beaches “plages de débarquement” came highly recommended, along with cathedrals and abbeys in the region, like Coutances in the northern Manche département.

Reed Porter, who lives in Annecy, likes to go to Êtretat when he visits Normandy. He had several recommendations, starting with “les falaises!” These are the dramatic cliffs overlooking the ocean.

Porter also suggested visitors of Êtretat head to “the glass stone beach” and the “old town” for its architecture. If you get hungry, there are “oysters everywhere all the time.”

Basque country was also highlighted for its proximity to the Pyrenées mountains. Maggie Parkinson said this was the best part of France’s coastline for her because of “The long views to the Pyrénées, the pine forests, the soft, fresh quality of the air, the many moods and colours of the sea – gently lapping aquamarine waves to thunderous, crashing black rollers churning foam onto the shore.”

A huge fan of the area, Parkinson had several recommendations ranging from cuisine to “cycling the many paths through the tranquil pines, visiting Bayonne, the Basque Country and the Pyrénées or northern Spain (for wonderful pintxos).”

She said that she loves to “[chill] on the endless, wide sandy beaches or [rest] on a hammock in the park” or “[catch] a local choir sporting blue or red foulards singing their hearts out to traditional or rock tunes.”

Similar reasons were listed in favour of Corsica as France’s best coastline, as it is also home to tall mountains with beautiful views over the water.

If you are looking to visit Corsica, Paul Griffiths recommends “having a good road map” and then “just [driving] quietly along the coast and over the mountains.” He said that this is “all easily doable in a day” and along the way you can “find beautiful beaches, lovely towns with good restaurants – especially Maccinaggion and Centuri – to enjoy one day after another.”

Finally, the preferred coastline location for The Local’s France Editor, Emma Pearson, also got some support by readers, with one calling La Vendée an “unpretentious” and “accessible” place for a vacation.

Respondent Anthony Scott said that “Les Sables d’Olonne and Luçon both epitomise the spirit of Vendée.” He enjoys the “inland serenity and historic sites, beautiful beaches and inviting seashores” as well as “traditional appetising meals.” He also noted that the area is “not too expensive.”

READ ALSO Brittany v Vendée – which is the best French coastline?

Many thanks to everyone who answered our survey, we couldn’t include all your recommendations, but feel free to leave suggestions in the comments below.

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