IT’S been described as a “holiday hell hotspot” by the AA, with travellers trying to use the Eurotunnel at Folkestone and the port of Dover facing excruciating 21-hour queues.
Tens of thousands of families setting off on summer holidays on Friday and Saturday last week — the busiest weekend of the year — were met by chaos as traffic became gridlocked, with many sleeping in their cars overnight.
The Government and the Port of Dover bosses are blaming the French for their sloppy handling of the situation with more stringent border checks now being enforced following Brexit.
They say that despite having six years to prepare for it, French authorities have failed to employ enough staff.
Foreign Secretary and Tory leadership candidate Liz Truss said: “This awful situation should have been entirely avoidable and is unacceptable.
“We need action from France to build up capacity at the border to limit any further disruption for British tourists and to ensure this appalling situation is avoided in future.”
So, will the chaos continue? And how can you ensure your holiday doesn’t begin with carnage? Here is everything you need to know.
Q) WHY are the queues so bad at Dover and the Channel Tunnel?
A) The delays are a perfect storm of events. The start of the school holidays saw a huge influx of passengers flocking to Folkestone and Dover at the weekend.
This, combined with massive staffing problems at the French border and a serious accident on the M20, led to queues of up to 21 hours.
Q) WHAT has this got to do with Brexit. Is France to blame?
A) The Government and Port of Dover bosses have accused the French of deliberately failing to prepare for the new post-Brexit rules.
Instead of flashing passports to an official at the border, as was often the case pre-Brexit, France is now enforcing new EU regulations that mean holiday- makers have to undergo far more thorough checks, and in addition each passport must be stamped.
Pre-Brexit, each passport took about ten seconds to check compared to an average of 30 seconds now.
Britain was never in the Schengen free movement zone, hence the suspicion France is actually trying to punish Brits for Brexit.
Q) WILL the chaos continue this weekend – and for the rest of the summer holidays?
A)Traffic was much calmer in Kent yesterday. But queues will likely continue for the next few weeks as teething problems are ironed out.
The roads are still likely to be very busy as more families head to the ports, with warnings of long queues again this weekend.
Q) I HAVEN’T booked yet. Should I avoid using the ferry and Eurotunnel altogether?
A) No. You can still travel by ferry and on the Eurotunnel.
Travel in the morning if you can, the earlier the better, because queues will gradually build through the day. If going by ferry, consider other ports.
Brittany Ferries operates out of Portsmouth, Plymouth and Poole to France and Spain.
Q) WHAT happens if I miss my ferry or train?
A) Both Eurotunnel and P&O Ferries, which operates out of Dover, have said they will put passengers on the next available departure if they miss their allotted time slot.
Families do not need to call to amend their booking. Eurotunnel operates a flexible service and has said that under the current circumstances, all passengers will be automatically rebooked on to the next available departure, regardless of the length of their delay.
Q) I HAVE already booked. How do I make the journey more bearable?
A) Be prepared to queue. Bosses at Dover are encouraging travellers to pack sensibly, making sure they have enough food and drink for their journey.
Companies are not obliged to offer compensation if you miss your sailing or shuttle because of the traffic.
P&O Ferries will offer you compensation only if the actual sailing is delayed.
In that circumstance, passengers can claim back up to 50 per cent of the ticket price, depending on the length of the departure delay and journey.
Q) WHERE else can I go that won’t see me camping in my car at the border?
A) Spain is the next best thing for those still wanting to travel by ferry.
Brittany Ferries sails from Plymouth and Portsmouth to Santander and from Portsmouth to Bilbao.
Flying is another option and even though there are still some complications at airports, it’s not all bad news.
Your safest bet is to book a package deal that will ensure both you and your money are well protected.
Jet2Holidays is proving to be one of the most reliable holiday providers at the moment, and it has some great European deals for families.