Breaking News

What’s behind disruption at Dover and what are your rights

[ad_1]

The start of the summer holiday getaway has been plunged into chaos after a critical incident was declared at the Port of Dover.

Holidaymakers have been stuck in long queues, with officials pointing the finger at France for failing to ensure a smooth start to the summer season.

What’s happened?

Dover port bosses have declared a critical incident due to major disruption at the border.

Drivers have been left sitting in long queues for immigration, with P&O Ferries warning of delays of up to five hours.

Officials at Dover have laid the blame for the chaos firmly at the door of the French.

Doug Bannister, the port’s chief executive, told Sky News: “The cause of it is French immigration controls.

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

In a statement on its website, the port said it had worked “particularly hard” over recent months to prepare for the expected jump in traffic volumes as the summer getaway began.

Despite this, staffing levels at the French border to process arrivals at the UK overnight and early this morning were “woefully inadequate”.

It’s reported that only six of the 12 passport booths run by the French authorities at Dover are currently open.

Bosses said they “deeply regret the consequences that will now be felt by so many”.

What should I do if I’m travelling?

The lengthy delays are set to cause chaos for anyone catching a ferry from Dover today.

P&O Ferries has warned that Jubilee Way, which leads up to the port, is currently “at a standstill”. It added that there are also queues on the A20 on the approach to Dover.

So far, neither the ferry operators nor the port has told passengers to avoid Dover, so holidaymakers can still attempt to travel.

However, people should expect delays of more than four hours and have been advised to “carry snacks and additional water”.

P&O said all its sailings were running on time and that anyone who misses their ferry will be able to travel on the next available one.

Passengers have been warned that there are limited toilet facilities at the port and they should stop en route.

How long will it last?

The queues are unlikely to die down before the end of the day and traffic is expected to remain heavy.

Port officials said they would continue to work with authorities in Kent to look after those caught up in the chaos and “play our part in resolving it as soon as possible”.

They added: “Working with and through the UK government, we will also liaise constructively with Police Aux Frontieres to work through the present logjam and to stress again the importance of adequate French border resource for the coming days and weeks on which we had previously been assured.”

What are my alternatives?

If you haven’t yet booked your travel to France, there are a number of alternative routes that avoid Dover.

Brittany Ferries links Portsmouth to Caen, St Malo and Cherbourg in as little as three hours, with the option of overnight sailings.

Condor Ferries runs services to St Malo, as well as to the Channel Islands. DFDS, meanwhile, links Newhaven and Dieppe.

What happens if I miss my ferry?

Passengers have been warned they face delays of up to five hours to get through major traffic jams and clear security checks.

However, all is not lost if you miss your ferry.

P&O and DFDS have both said that passengers who miss their original sailing will be placed on the next available service once they’ve reached check-in.

If the service you were booked on is delayed or cancelled, however, you will be entitled to compensation.

You’re entitled to get 25pc of the ticket price back if you’re delayed for at least:

  • one hour for a journey of up to four hours
  • two hours for a journey of between four and eight hours
  • three hours for a journey of between eight and 24 hours
  • six hours for a journey of more than 24 hours

If the delay is more than double these times, the compensation rises to 50pc.

What’s more, if your ferry is expected to be delayed by more than 90 minutes, you should be offered free snacks, meals and refreshments.

However, operators are only required to provide these if they’re available or can reasonably be supplied.

Guy Hobbs, travel editor at consumer group Which?, says: “If you find yourself caught up in the gridlock at Dover today and miss your ferry crossing as a result, you should check the terms and conditions of your booking as soon as possible, to confirm whether you are entitled to a refund or rebooking, or contact your operator for advice.

“Some ferry operators will offer to rebook you on the next available crossing, although policies vary between companies.”

What happens if I choose to drive to a different port?

As queues continue to build up around Dover, some travellers might be tempted to choose a different route to the continent.

Brittany Ferries links Portsmouth to Caen, St Malo and Cherbourg in as little as three hours, with the option of overnight sailings.

Condor Ferries runs services to St Malo, as well as to the Channel Islands. DFDS, meanwhile, links Newhaven and Dieppe.

For those willing to leave the car at home, there are plenty for flight routes connecting the UK to northern France. However, passengers could still be faced with delays and cancellations at airports.

Alternatively, Eurostar trains are still running, connecting London and Ashford International to Paris and other European destinations.

However, as ferries are still running as scheduled from Dover, passengers who choose to abandon their original plans won’t be entitled to any money back on their ticket.

What happens if I miss my hotel booking?

The severe delays could mean some passengers don’t make it to their destination on time, potentially leaving them on the hook for a hotel booking.

Whether or not you can claim a refund will depend on your hotel’s cancellation policy and your room rate.

The best thing to do is contact the hotel by phone as soon as possible and explain your circumstances.

Some may offer free changes or cancellations at the last minute, but you may well be liable for fees.

Guy Hobbs at Which?, says travel insurance may also offer some protection for additional expenses such as accommodation.

He adds: “It is important to check your policy wording carefully so you understand any limitations to cover.”

Can I extend my holiday?

Holidaymakers who’ve wasted precious time off in long traffic jams might be tempted to extend their trips.

Whether or not you can extend your stay will depend on how flexible your hotel’s rebooking policy is.

But travellers should be wary that extending the holiday could incur additional costs for the journey home.

Both P&O and DFDS allow customers to change the time of their booking, but generally charge an amendment fee to do so.

Should I consider a different method for getting home?

The lengthy queues are unlikely to die down before the end of the day and traffic is expected to remain heavy.

A fatal accident on the M20 has added to the chaos, with police forced to close the motorway, blocking access to the Eurotunnel turnoff.

Port officials said they would continue to work with authorities in Kent to look after those caught up in the chaos and “play our part in resolving it as soon as possible”.

However, P&O has said traffic is flowing freely in Calais and there are no queues, with all departures due to leave on schedule, so passengers should be able to return home without difficulty.

[ad_2]

Source link