April 24, 2024

The biggest summer holiday in four years begins – how chaotic is it at Dover?

The biggest summer holiday route since 2019 is underway, with millions of British tourists on the move.

The busiest day for international travelers since the start of the Covid pandemic has been relatively smooth, with delays for ferry passengers at Dover far less than the worst 150 minute delays predicted by the port authorities.

The four hours between 6am and 10am were expected to have the highest number of cars of the year, with over 3,100 expected to arrive on ferries to Calais and Dunkirk. In total, travel association Abta predicts that more than two million UK travelers will head abroad over the weekend.

This time last year, queues grew rapidly as families heading abroad faced tougher border checks as a result of Brexit. The port of Dover – a squeeze between the White Cliffs and the English Channel – became a hard EU border, with French border officials having to check and stamp all passports.

Queue times in Dover have hit 90 minutes

(Simon Calder)

Additional border posts and a coach processing center off the Eastern Docks have eased the pressure, with 10,000 drivers and passengers passing through by 7am on Saturday. The waiting time for the French passport formalities was estimated at 90 minutes as it approached 9am.

Port authorities are urging drivers not to board more than three hours in advance, which would add to traffic congestion. Any delayed drivers will be accommodated on the next available sailing.

But drivers who successfully cross the English Channel may only find their problems just beginning. French highway authorities are warning of heavy traffic congestion – “very difficult traffic” – on the autoroutes south of Paris all day Saturday.

On UK roads, it is expected to be the busiest weekend of the year so far for holidaymakers, with the RAC predicting peak congestion between midday and 6pm.

(Simon Calder)

Manchester’s M60 ring road is designated for the worst jams, anti-clockwise between Junction 14 for St Helens and Junction 11 for Eccles. The M5 motorway south of Bristol and London’s M25 are also likely to be extremely busy.

Across England, the latest rail strike by members of the RMT union is expected to keep roads very busy. It has canceled thousands of trains across England. Train drivers of the Aslef union are on the last day of the latest ban on overtime.

The two unions are involved in a long and bitter dispute over pay, jobs and working conditions.

Trains are running on main intercity lines and around major cities, but most rail firms are telling passengers: “Only travel if absolutely necessary.”

Motorists have been warned that the M5 and M25 will be extremely busy


Services on most lines will cease at around 7pm this evening, with disruption expected on Sunday morning.

A planned strike by RMT members working for the London Underground, which would bring almost the entire Tube network to a standstill between Sunday 23 July and Friday 28 July, 36 hours before it was due to go on strike, has been called off after progress in talks.

The final day of current RMT national rail action is scheduled for Saturday 29 July. Two days later, another six-day ban on overtime for Aslef-owned train drivers begins.

Thousands of airline passengers due to arrive in the UK faced long delays on Friday evening. It was the busiest day for European skies since 2019, with over 35,000 flights.

Pressure on air traffic controllers increased throughout the day, with many arriving at Gatwick and Manchester airports an hour or two behind schedule. One Tui flight from Marrakech to Gatwick was diverted to Stansted.

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