Chaos on first day of Bank Holiday getaway as cars battle huge queues at Dover
Thousands of British families have been caught up in traffic chaos at the Port of Dover this morning as a surge of holidaymakers make a break for the continent over the Bank Holiday weekend.
And those flying by plane have also been affected by delays with long lines forming at Bristol and Manchester Airports and 42 flights cancelled at Heathrow already this morning due to an IT failure.
Around 16,000 passengers are thought to have been affected by the Heathrow cancellations already so far today, with many not learning the news of the cancellation until they were on the way to the airport.
This has contributed to the chaos on the road on a day that is predicted to be the busiest day for road and airport traffic since the Covid pandemic.
Up to 5,500 cars and 350 coaches are predicted to travel through Dover today and the Port has been under pressure to put measures in place to stop traffic getting snarled up after declaring a critical incident this Easter.
DOVER: Traffic queues for ferries at the Port of Dover in Kent as the getaway for half term and the bank holiday weekend begins
DOVER: Port bosses are anxious to avoid a repeat of Easter where some travellers waited as long as 17 hours
BRISTOL: Passengers faced some lengthy queues at the check-in desks this morning
MANCHESTER: Holidaymakers queue for check-in at Manchester Airport’s terminal 2 this morning
DOVER: Some drivers have already left their cars and are waiting by the roadside
Ferry operator DFDS said shortly before 8.30am that there was a wait of around an hour at border control for travellers in cars, while coach traffic was “free-flowing”.
Chief executive Doug Bannister says the Port of Dover has reviewed traffic volumes since the 17-hour Easter delays and insists ferry operators are working with coach companies to smooth the flow of traffic.
He told the BBC: ‘We created a new processing centre in the western part of the port to better sequence the traffic coming into the port and to the advanced passenger information checks.’
The Port also has a covered area where coaches will go for passenger passport checks.
Doug added: ‘And then finally, what we’ve done is we’ve worked with all of our port partners, but specifically Police aux Frontières, to ensure that the resource levels are what we require, to make certain that we can maintain the flow rates. And they responded very well.’
He said the port had considered asking ferry operators to limit the number of passenger bookings but decided to work with them to ease congestion instead.
He added: ‘We’ve had a look at it. But to be fair, what I would rather do is make certain that collectively, we come together and try and service the demand of the coach industry as best as we possibly can.’
However, Doug claims ‘it would be foolish’ to guarantee that there will not be more queues at the Port.
He added: ‘Because one of the things that we have found is that things happen, right.
‘But what I can say is that we have put in place all the measures all the processes installed new facilities, in the best effort to make certain that those queues cannot happen again.’
DOVER: Cars queue to get through check in and security at the port today
DOVER: At intervals in the enormous line vehicles are completely static
DOVER: HGV’s, cars and coaches have all been caught up in the traffic this morning
DOVER: Port bosses previously said ‘it would be foolish’ to guarantee that there will not be more queues
Most of the affected flights were on short haul routes to and from Heathrow Airport on what was expected to be the busiest day for UK air travel since before the coronavirus pandemic.
Friday’s chaos was caused by planes and crew being out of position after an IT problem caused around 80 flights to be grounded on Thursday.
There were also widespread delays to other flights, and some passengers were unable to check in online.
In a message on its website, British Airways told customers: ‘We’re aware of a technical issue, which we have been working hard to fix.’
It advised passengers to check the status of their flight before going to the airport, adding that it is receiving ‘high call volumes’.
Heathrow said the problem was not related to a strike by security officers at Terminal 5 who are currently locked in a dispute over pay.
Members of Unite have already held 15 days of industrial action, including over the busy Easter period.
Heathrow said it has contingency plans in place to keep the airport open and operating as usual, adding that passengers can expect to have a ‘smooth’ half-term getaway.
Meanwhile motorists are being told to expect ‘hectic’ traffic during what is expected to be the busiest late May bank holiday weekend on the roads since 2019.
A survey of 2,138 drivers for the RAC indicated that 19.2 million leisure car trips will take place across the UK between Friday and Monday.
The worst traffic over the four days is expected today, when people embarking on bank holiday getaways will compete for road space with commuters.
Transport data company Inrix expects journeys on some stretches of the M25 to take up to three times longer than normal.
They include clockwise from Junction 23 for Hatfield to Junction 28 for Chelmsford, and anticlockwise towards the Dartford Crossing.
Long delays are also expected on the M5 in Somerset and the M6 in Cheshire and Greater Manchester.
BRISTOL: Passengers flying out of Bristol airport have endured long queues
MANCHESTER: Scrums continue to form at Manchester airport this morning
RAC Breakdown spokesman Rod Dennis said: ‘With the travel restrictions imposed during Covid now thankfully a distant memory, it’s clear drivers’ desire to get away has been reignited, with our figures for this coming weekend suggesting leisure traffic volumes will be close to what we last saw in 2019.
‘The Met Office currently predicts largely settled weather with above-average temperatures so we’re expecting this to be a hectic period on major roads as people aim to make the most of the last long weekend before August.
‘With so many households under the cosh financially, we’re concerned that a lack of essential maintenance might lead to more avoidable breakdowns than we’d normally see.
‘A quick look at oil and coolant levels, together with checking tyres are in good condition and inflated properly, can go a long way to avoiding an unwelcome stop at the side of the road this weekend.’
Traffic control measures have already been put in place to manage the flow of lorries travelling to Dover on the M20.
The Kent Resilience Forum, which manages emergency planning for the county, told the BBC: ‘The passenger forecasts from both Eurotunnel and the Port of Dover indicate an extremely busy period for cross-Channel traffic over the bank holiday weekend at the end of May.
‘This also coincides with schools in the UK breaking up for half-term.’