Travellers at Dover face waits of up to six hours this morning despite additional ferries running throughout the night in a bid to clear the backlog at the Port.
Easter getaway woes are set to continue for a third day after poor weather and long processing times by French border officials caused huge delays.
Some holidaymakers have faced waits of up to 16 hours in recent days, with the Port of Dover declaring a critical incident over the long delays, saying it was ‘deeply frustrated’.
Coaches, including some carrying schoolchildren, were stuck overnight with furious parents reporting some kids had been left without food and water amid the ‘carnage’.
The Port says the delays remain this morning, although it added it hopes to resume normal operations by midday.
There are delays of up to six hours at the Port of Dover this morning, after days of chaos. Pictured: Long queues at French border control on Saturday
The Port of Dover has said it is ‘deeply frustrated’ by the backlog, which have been caused by poor weather and delays at French border processing. Pictured: Vehicles queue for border control at Dover on Saturday
Ferry operators P&O and DFDS first reported disruption to their services on Friday night, with the latter saying strong winds were adding to the problem.
Officials added that ferry companies had received 15 per cent more coach bookings over the Easter holidays than expected, with the process of bringing coaches on board being slower than loading cars, the BBC reports.
By Saturday evening P&O Ferries said there were waits of up to 10 hours – five to reach the cruise terminal, and another five in a holding zone for coaches.
It said it was putting on additional crossings overnight to help clear the backlog, but this morning said the wait was up to six hours long.
On Twitter the firm wrote: ‘We apologise for the wait times in Dover this morning. The current wait at the entrance to the Port of Dover is approximately 5-6 hours. Once coaches reach our check in desks they will be on the next crossing to Calais’
On Saturday evening the port’s chief executive, Doug Bannister, said: ‘My ops team is anticipating that we will get through all the backlog, including all the people that wanted to travel today, overnight.
‘The ferry operators are laying on additional sailings overnight to try and accomplish that, so hopefully by about midday tomorrow we’ll be back to normal operations.’
In an update this morning, the Port of Dover said on Twitter: ‘Border processing times for coaches remains 3-4 hours, once entering the Port. Thank you for your continued patience as we work to resolve the current situation. ‘
Vehicles spent hours queuing at border control as they attempted to get on ferries heading to France. Pictured: Queues at the port on Saturday
Hundreds of lorries were seen queuing down the A20 to reach the port on Saturday, April 1
One woman described the situation as ‘carnage’, having been stuck in an overnight bus for 16 hours.
Rosie Pearson, 50, an environmental campaigner from Essex travelling to Val d’Isere in the French Alps with her family on an overnight bus, said it was a ‘shambles’.
It was due to arrive at 2.15pm on Saturday, but Ms Pearson, her husband and two teenagers will now not make it until 6am on Sunday due to delays in Dover.
‘The whole thing was a shambles… Not a single bit of communication,’ Ms Pearson said.
‘It was carnage… The worst thing was that no-one told us anything for the whole 16 hours, literally nothing.
‘Shocking that something this chaotic can happen. My children’s school has a ski trip this week (they are not on it, with us instead) and their bus was turned away last night – they had to sleep at a service station and come back this morning.’
PE teacher Dafydd Francis was part of a group of 19 adults and 14 children travelling from Neath, South Wales, to Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Austria.
‘We will arrive at the resort 14 hours late if we are lucky,’ he said. ‘We will fly next time. We are shell-shocked.’
In a statement issued on Saturday morning, port authorities 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.
‘Through the ferry operators and the port, food and drink has been provided to those coach passengers caught up in the border queues. 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.’
A Government spokesman said: ‘We remain in close contact with ferry operators and the French authorities regarding delays at the port.’