The Port of Dover chief told Sky News he could not say how long it would take to eliminate long queues of holidaymakers – as Foreign Secretary Liz Truss sought to blame France for the “appalling situation”.
The Tory management’s hope said the huge volume of traffic, which saw the port declare a “critical incident”, “should have been entirely avoidable and is unacceptable”.
“We need action from France to build capacity at the border to limit any further disruption to British tourists and to ensure this dreadful situation is avoided in the future,” she said.
“We will work with the French authorities to find a solution.”
Ms Truss released a statement after Port of Dover chief Doug Bannister told Sky News it was going to be ‘one hell of a challenge to get through it all’.
“I can’t tell you how long it will take to fix this problem,” he added. “I really wish I could do that.”
The port said ‘woefully insufficient’ French staff were causing ‘major disruption’.
On this side of the Channel, Mr Bannister said ferry operators ‘have brought in enough staff’ and are ‘running full steam ahead’.
French police said they were not responsible for the delays and that an “unexpected technical incident” was the cause. They promised to work closely with their UK counterparts to manage heavy traffic over the next few days.
Forecast traffic volumes have been shared with French authorities “in great detail” as they prepare for the summer holiday season, he added.
P&O Ferries has urged anyone traveling today to ‘allow at least six hours to pass all security checks’ and to ‘arrive prepared for an extended wait’ with ‘snacks and extra water’.
One traveler said they were moving ‘at 50 meters per hour’, tweeting: ‘At this rate it will take me 34 hours before I get to port!’
Another said: “Sitting in hallways waiting to get to border control. No movement.”
In a lengthy statement, the port said it had “worked so hard and in good faith” with local and government partners over several months as it prepared for the “busy summer”.
He added: “We are deeply frustrated that the resource at the French border overnight and early this morning was woefully insufficient to meet our forecast demand.”
Dover said it had “formed a new team of passenger champions to be available and assist customers in port”.
He continues: “We know the resource is limited, but the popularity of Dover is no surprise.
“Unfortunately, the resources of the Police Aux Frontières (PAF) have been insufficient and are well below what is needed to ensure a smooth first weekend of the peak summer getaway period.”
The port said it underlined “the importance of an adequate French border resource for the days and weeks ahead on which we had previously been assured”.
He concluded: “We have to work as a team.”
Routes to watch for delays over the weekend
- M25 anti-clockwise Junction 4 Bromley to Dartford
- M4 eastbound from junction 30 Cardiff East to junction 24 for the A449 Monmouth
- M25 counter clockwise Junction 17 Maple Cross to Junction 12 for the M3
- A303 westbound after Stonehenge
- M25 clockwise Junction 7 M23 to Junction 16 for the M40
- M5 southbound from junction 15 of the Almondsbury interchange to junction 23 for the A38 Bridgwater
- Source: RAC
Elsewhere a “slow convoy” joined the M5 in a protest against high fuel pricespolice said.
The Avon and Somerset force said a ‘protest convoy of approximately 10 vehicles’ entered the northbound motorway at J24 for Bridgwater.
Police previously warned that the M4 and M32 could also be affected.
Fuel Price Stand Against Tax, a Facebook group with 53,000 members, shared a message suggesting that activists will come together “across the country” to make their voices heard.
Demonstrations are planned in Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool, London and Manchester.