Travel chaos with ‘critical incident’ at Port of Dover, huge queues at airports and fuel protests set to cripple M5 & M4

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BRITS are braced for travel chaos today after a “critical incident” was declared at Dover, huge queues built at airports and protesters planned to cripple motorways across the country.

Kent’s port of Dover warned of “major disruption” this morning as thousands of holidaymakers were warned to arrive SIX HOURS early for ferries.

Cops have also stressed back-to-back traffic is set to build on the M4, M5, M32 and A38 in what is already set to be the busiest summer getaway in at least eight years.

Airports saw hundreds of passengers snake around terminals before 4am, as queues for flights

And those hoping to take the ferry reported being stuck in five-hour queues to complete border checks at Dover before they could check in.

Doug Bannister, the port’s chief executive, said “woefully inadequate” staffing was to blame for the “major disruption”.

He told Sky News: “The cause of it is French immigration controls.

“We’ve been let down this morning despite the planning of the last several months to get ready for this day.

“This is causing major disruption. French border controls are not properly staffed.

“It’s somewhat down to longer than normal transaction times as well, but mainly it’s inadequate personnel numbers.”

The port said in a statement it has made “significant investment” to increase its capacity, and shared traffic volume forecasts “in granular detail with the French authorities”.

But it went on: “Regrettably, the PAF (police aux frontieres) resource has been insufficient and has fallen far short of what is required to ensure a smooth first weekend of the peak summer getaway period.”

The delays mean tourist and freight traffic have been stuck for hours on gridlocked roads in the area.

And P&O Ferries warned passengers to arrive six hours early for their boats.

A notice on the company’s Twitter read: “Please be aware that there is heavy traffic at border control in the port of Dover.

“If you are booked to travel today please allow at least six hours to clear all security checks.”

The warning was little use to those already in back-to-back to traffic, with one traveller moving “50m per hour”.

They wrote on Twitter: “At this rate it’ll be 34 hours before I get to the port!

“I have a screaming toddler and three-month-old.”

We’ve been let down this morning despite the planning of the last several months to get ready for this day. This is causing major disruption. French border controls are not properly staffed. Doug Bannister Chief Executive, Port Of Dover

Another described how they have been “waiting five hours and still not in the port”.

The person added: “Sat in lanes waiting to get to border control. Zero movement.”

Meanwhile, Ferry operator P&O Ferries told passengers: “There are currently queues in excess of four hours to reach the border controls.

“Our check-in remains free flowing and once you reach us, we will put you on the first available sailing.

“Please arrive prepared for a prolonged wait. Carry snacks and additional water with you.”

It comes after an image posted on Facebook group Fuel Price Stand Against Tax suggests protests will be held “nationwide”, including in Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool, London and Manchester.

And with most schools in England and Wales breaking up for summer this week, the RAC said an estimated 18.8million trips are planned in the UK between Friday and Monday.

That is the most since the company began tracking summer getaway numbers in 2014.

TRAVEL CHAOS

Queues were already building at airports first thing this morning, as thousands of travellers made for the holiday rush.

And warning of further chaos today, superintendent Tony Blatchford of Avon and Somerset Police urged drivers to consider “alternative travel plans” due to the pump price protests.

He said: “Our protest liaison team has been engaging with the organiser so we can inform the public of the likely disruption and help to minimise it.

“Nevertheless, drivers can expect journey times will likely be longer than normal, especially on motorways, which often tend to be at their busiest at this time of year.

“We advise motorists to consider any alternative travel plans available and ensure they are suitably prepared in case they are delayed.”

The first stage of Friday’s action in the South West will see vehicles travel north on the M5 between Bridgwater and the Almondsbury Interchange from about 8.45am, then east along the M4 and to Junction 1 of the M32.

The convoy is expected to leave the motorway and stop “for a period of time” before completing the same route in reverse, arriving back in Bridgwater “in the early afternoon”, police said.

A second group of protesters is planning to drive slowly to the Shell petrol station in Bristol Road, Bridgwater.

“They are expected to block the forecourt during the morning,” according to police.

We advise motorists to consider any alternative travel plans available and ensure they are suitably prepared in case they are delayed.Superintendent Tony BlatchfordAvon And Somerset Police

Fuel price protests on July 4 led to 12 people being arrested on the M4.

Figures from data company Experian show the average price of a litre of petrol on Wednesday was 187.5p, while diesel was 196.1p.

Transport analytics company Inrix believes the M25 – London’s orbital motorway – could see some of the worst jams due to the summer getaway, singling out the stretches between Bromley and the Dartford Crossing; Maple Cross and the M3; and the M23 to the M40.

The A303 near Stonehenge, Wiltshire, the M4 between Cardiff and Newport in south Wales, and the M5 south of Bristol are also likely to see queuing traffic.

Climate protesters caused major disruption on Wednesday by climbing onto signs above the M25.

There are also likely to be long queues at the Port of Dover again today.

Travellers were forced to queue for up to three hours on Thursday to complete border control and check-in.

On Thursday afternoon, a spokesman for the port said: “As a result of high demand and earlier capacity issues at the border, the port system is working hard to catch up and to get everyone through as quickly as possible.

“Passengers will be placed on the first available sailing and will be away on their holidays shortly.”

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