Schoolchildren are physically sick after not eating for over15 hours in 70-coach queue at Dover
Schoolchildren are being physically sick after not eating for more than 15 hours in a nightmarish 70-coach queue at Dover.
Thousands of people have been left stranded in an enormous traffic jam for over 12 hours at the Port of Dover, due to bad weather and French border control hold-ups.
Among them are holiday makers and coachloads of children heading for school trips, waiting in the prolonged delay as vehicles slowly filter past the checkpoints.
One frustrated coach driver, with a party of 48 children from Swansea, shared that some of them were ‘not doing very well’ after not eating a substantial meal for over 15 hours.
Robert Kordula, who works for Swindon company Barnes Coaches, said he had not been updated by anyone about their current wait time for a ferry.
Port of Dover declared a critical incident as delays expected for passengers
The coach – heading for Claviere in Italy – set off with two others from Swansea yesterday lunchtime with around 200 school on board in total.
After a long nine-hour drive to the Dover port, Mr Kordula swapped shifts with the driver on board to take over the rest of the journey.
He said they have been stuck at the Dover port since 9:15pm last night, and are still waiting behind around 50 coaches to board a ferry across the channel.
The 51-year-old, who has been a coach driver for a year, said: ‘We were first told to go to the cruise terminal and do our advance pass information checks with P&O cruises which we did not get to do.
‘We were then told to go to the service station called Stop 24 about 15 miles up the road to wait.
‘We got there and the service station was closed which is ironic as it is called stop 24 and meant to be open for 24 hours.’
Mr Kordula explained that the only facility available was a small petrol station which ‘couldn’t cope’ with the sheer number of people.
He now feels sorry for the children who have not only missed out on a day’s worth of skiing but are struggling to cope with a lack of food.
Holidaymakers stranded in the queues reported wait times of up to 12 hours
A coach driver, with a party of 48 children, shared that some of them were ‘not doing very well’
Traffic at the Port of Dover in Kent as the Easter getaway begins
He continued: ‘There wasn’t enough food and the toilets ran out of toilet paper.
‘We received no updates all night, but then at 6am this morning we were told to return to the cruise terminal and we have been there ever since.
‘It is now 10:15am, more than 12 hours since we arrived at the port and we have not had any updates and don’t know when or if we will be able to get on a ferry any time soon.
‘When we arrived back at the cruise terminal at 6am people handed out KitKats, crisps and bottles of water which was very good.
‘But the kids are not doing very well.
‘Some of them are being physically sick as they have not had a substantial meal for around 15 hours due to the journey down here on top of the wait time.
‘We are moving very slowly now towards the ferry, but there are coaches parked at every angle and we do not know when we will board.’
The Port of Dover declared a critical incident as high levels of traffic caused coach passengers to experience lengthy delays
Passengers by their coach at the Port of Dover in Kent as the Easter getaway begins
Mr Kordula stressed that he and the other drivers were also running out of time, explaining that two drivers alone can only do so for up to 21 hours.
After that, they would need to send down more drivers to take over – adding extra time onto the journey for children on board.
He continued: ‘One of my colleagues who has been a coach driver for over 25 years has never seen anything like it.
‘I feel sorry for them and its not fair on the thousand of kids stuck in this situation.’
Dafydd Francis, a PE teacher from Seven Sisters, Neath, was also among 33 people travelling from South Wales to Saalbach-Hinterglemm in Austria.
They arrived at the port at 11pm on Friday night and were still awaiting boarding at lunchtime today.
‘We all feel angry but shell shocked at the situation,’ said Mr Francis, 49.
‘We will arrive at the resort 14 hours late if we are lucky… I have organised various trips since 1998 for school and family and friends, approximately 50 trips. We will fly next time.’
Operators P&O Ferries and DFDS Seaways also reported delays to ferry and coach services, citing bad weather and hold-ups at French border controls
The Port of Dover, which last night declared a critical incident, said the delays were ‘due to lengthy French border processes and sheer volume’. It added that it was ‘deeply frustrated’ that travellers were suffering ‘significant delays’ ahead of the Easter getaway.
P&O Ferries and DFDS Seaways also said ferry and coach service delays were due to poor weather and French border issues.
Reports from holidaymakers stranded in the queue suggested that as many as 70 coaches were still waiting to be processed on Saturday morning with school children on coach trips left waiting for over 12 hours.
In an update this morning following chaos overnight, a statement from the port said additional coach bookings taken by ferry operators for Easter have impacted operations.
Just before 9am, a spokesman for the port said: ‘Coach waiting time is still several hours, but tourist cars are getting through OK.’
DFDS Seaways and P&O Ferries also announced delays in their services
P&O Ferries also apologised for the significant delays, while DFDS said it is expecting a busy weekend and advised passengers to allow extra time to complete border and check-in controls.
A statement from the port said: ‘The Port of Dover is deeply frustrated by last night’s and this morning’s situation and particularly so on behalf of all the ferry operators’ coach passengers who have had to endure such a long wait at the port.
‘Whilst freight and car traffic was processed steadily regardless of the additional challenging weather conditions and high seasonal volumes, coach traffic suffered significant delays due to lengthy French border processes and sheer volume.
‘Despite considerable pre-planning with our ferry operators, border agency partners and the Kent Resilience Forum, and the success of similar plans for processing substantial numbers of coaches during the most recent half-term period, the additional coach bookings taken by ferry operators for Easter has impacted operations for the port.’
The port said food and drink has been provided to coach passengers in the queues, adding: ‘We offer our sincere apologies for the prolonged delays that people have endured and continue to work with all of our partners to get all passengers on their way as quickly as possible.’
DFDS announced on Twitter just after 9pm on Friday that the wait time for coaches was approximately seven hours from arrival at the port.
P&O Ferries Updates tweeted at 7.40pm that the delay for coaches was due to ‘the time it is taking to process each vehicle at French border controls’
Coaches at the Port of Dover in Kent as the Easter getaway begins
Traffic queues form at the Port of Dover as Easter Holiday traffic builds up late into the night
Many travellers vented their frustration on Twitter as they waited in the traffic standstill, as well as parents of school children who were loaded on to coaches to cross the channel on their way to school trips in mainland Europe.
Parents described how their children were hungry and tired after being at a standstill overnight with some coaches sent away to nearby carparks and told to return later in the day.
Some schools said they were distributed with crisps, chocolate, and water amid the wait.
One mother wrote in response to a P&O Ferry update on Twitter: ‘Disgusting! Our children have been stuck at Dover on the coach for 9 hours so far, not moved, no refreshments. Trying to get all the way to Austria. How will we be compensated?’
Another asked: ‘Most of the coaches have coach loads of kids heading skiing for the Easter break. What are you doing to make sure they and their teachers and coach drivers are getting drinks and food?’
Others said it was a ‘frustrating and clearly a foreseeable situation’, and told the ferry company’s: ‘You knew how many you were expecting!’ amid the Easter getaway.
A spokesperson for DFDS Seaways said last night: ‘The queues at Dover today have been as a result of bad weather causing delays to sailings, combined with high volumes of traffic, and particularly coach groups.
‘DFDS is working to keep passengers up to date via its website and social media channels, and is transporting passengers on the next available sailing once they have checked in.
‘It has also been working with coach operators to speed up the check in process for coach passengers.’
Both DFDS and P&O have been publishing updates on Twitter.
P&O Ferries Updates tweeted at 7.40pm yesterday that the delay for coaches was due to ‘the time it is taking to process each vehicle at French border controls’.
‘We apologise for the wait times and have put on an extra sailing this evening to help clear the backlog,’ the operator added.
The company posted at multiple points on Friday: ‘We know it’s really busy today and we want you to know that we are doing all we can to get all customers on their way as quickly as possible.
‘We know this isn’t the ideal start to your trip but our teams are ready to welcome you onboard once checked in.’
DFDS UK Updates tweeted at 7.07pm, that services to France were running with delays of ‘up to 2 hours due to the winds in the channel’.
On Friday morning, at 11.18am, the company tweeted that coach traffic was ‘very busy’ with ‘120 minutes wait’ at border controls.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer weighed in on the queues on Saturday, urging the Government to ‘get a grip’ of the situation at Dover.
‘I really feel for people trying to get through Dover. There will have been families who have booked holidays and now they are frustrated yet again and I think the nature of the frustration will be ‘not again’.
‘This is not the first time there have been problems at Dover.
‘The Government needs to get a grip of this. You can’t have every summer holiday, every Easter holiday, the same old problem.
‘And so the Government needs to get a grip on this and actually help people out in who are just trying to get away for a few days holiday.’
Lorries continued to queue up as the main A20 route into Dover via the Roundhill Tunnel was closed
The A20 Roundhill Tunnel in Kent is closed eastbound to prevent traffic queueing
Traffic stood at at a standstill at junction 12 on the M20 heading into Dover today
Lorries lined up on the left hand side of the road as the queue into the Port of Dover continued into the distance