Motorists face huge queues and blocked roads to Dover after a backlog of lorries waiting for disrupted ferry services at the Port of Kent.
Drivers report queuing in traffic for hours to board ferries, while part of the M20 is used to park lorries. The disruption is caused by a shortage of ferries and poor weather conditions.
As part of Operation Brock, the traffic management system designed to manage the queues of lorries heading to mainland Europe, the east side of the road is only open to freight between junctions eight and nine. The side of the road towards London remains open to all traffic.
The system, which was created under post-Brexit emergency powers, was due to expire in October 2021 but has since been made permanent.
The traffic chaos, which began on Friday, prevented residents from being able to drive to shops or work, according to Kent Online. Drivers faced miles of queues Friday on the M2 and M20.
The delays come as P&O Ferries services have been reduced to the port, after the company laid off nearly 800 workers without notice last month. The company made 786 crew members redundant on UK contracts issued from Jersey in March. Criminal and civil investigations have been opened into the operator’s conduct, and it has not yet been allowed to continue sailing to France with cheaper interim staff.
The Port of Dover said: ‘The main access roads to the port are currently very busy. The continued impact of the absence of any P&O service continues to affect the remaining ferry operations with the start of the Easter getaway period.
“Operators are working hard to deal with traffic, clear local congestion and get people on their way as quickly as possible. Tourist traffic continues to pass through the port.
He asked passengers to allow more time for their journey and to follow their operator for updates, while advising local traffic “to use alternative routes where possible”.
MP for Dover Natalie Elphicke blamed the queues in part on P&O Ferries, adding the company was still not operating after “failed security checks” of its new crews. She said the disruption is expected to last for the next few days.
Elphicke said: “The traffic disruption caused by P&O’s actions is very serious. Coupled with the unfavorable weather conditions and traffic of the Easter getaway, the situation has become serious. We can expect this to continue for the next few days. She added that the delays had caused an “unacceptable impact” locally.
The cross-Channel situation worsened further after a DFDS ferry, Dover Seaways, hit a quay in Dunkirk amid strong winds on Thursday evening. It had been removed from service for repair and would not be available until at least Monday, the company said.
The operator said: ‘All services from Dover to Calais and Dunkirk are interrupted this morning due to weather conditions yesterday and overnight. He advised customers to go to the port of Dover and check in as normal, adding that members of his customer care team were at the port to help customers and keep them informed of the situation.
National Highways said it was helping to manage traffic on the M20 with Kent Police.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: ‘We are aware of the queues in Dover, and the Kent Resilience Forum and local partners are working to minimize any disruption by deploying temporary traffic management measures as standard. . This was caused by a number of factors including extreme weather conditions in the English Channel. »
Some increase in traffic was expected as families cross the Channel for Easter, with the holidays having already started for some schools. Separately, passengers traveling overseas are also bracing for delays due to staff shortages at UK airports.