Easter travel hell at Dover as bosses are told to 'ration' coaches

More Easter travel hell at Dover as bosses ‘ration’ coaches: Holidaymakers are urged to move bookings from Good Friday to avoid a repeat of 17-hour delays last weekend

  • Thousands of families faced a weekend of carnage with huge queues at the port 
  • Ferry bosses now demand coach firms cut back on the number of bookings 

Holiday plans for thousands of families could be thrown into chaos this Easter weekend amid plans to slash the number of coaches using the Port of Dover on Good Friday. 

Ferry bosses have demanded coach firms amend bookings and ration the number of trips from the Kent port ahead of the bank holiday, amid fears the site will be rammed with people.   

It comes after days of mayhem at the travel hub last weekend when hellish 17-hour delays blighted sunseekers trying to get away for an Easter break. 

Thousands were left stranded overnight due to the critical incident, with port bosses blaming ‘lengthy French border processes and sheer volume’ for the delays. 

The Port of Dover has taken its drastic measure as a result of an ‘urgent review’ into last weekend’s fiasco – which bosses hope won’t be repeated this weekend. 

Ferry bosses have demanded coach firms amend bookings for scores of trips from the Port of Dover ahead of the bank holiday. It followed carnage at the Kent port last weekend which saw thousands of families trapped in huge 16-hour queues (pictured)

Some travellers were left stranded overnight (pictured) with port bosses blaming ‘lengthy French border processes and sheer volume’ for the delays

Among those trapped in the carnage were coach loads of schoolchildren who were reportedly left without food or water for 15 hours. Pictured are the delays on April 2

Good Friday is expected to be the busiest day of the Easter bank holiday weekend for coaches embarking on cross-Channel trips from the port.

READ MORE: ‘This is just a nightmare’ – Parents’ agony in 16 hour queues and holding stations where toilets were closed and they ran out of water


The port said that to ‘reduce coach volumes’ on the day, ferry operators DFDS, Irish Ferries and P&O Ferries are ‘working with their coach customers to spread the travel’ across the three-day period from Thursday to Saturday.

Additional ‘temporary border control infrastructure as contingency capacity for coach processing’ has been installed, according to the statement.

Other measures aimed at reducing congestion this weekend include French border control authorities providing a full complement of officials to process outbound travellers and drivers being advised not to arrive early to ‘avoid unnecessary bottlenecks’. Coach volumes are expected to be a third lower than a week ago.

The port said: ‘All Port of Dover stakeholders are acutely aware that last weekend was a horrible situation for many travellers, including the elderly and schoolchildren.

‘It is the top priority of all parties to ensure a better experience for travellers this weekend.

‘These additional measures are intended to significantly improve traffic throughput and give travellers a better start to their holidays.’

Last week saw huge queues stretching out for miles as delays at border check points caused carnage.

Thousands of holidaymakers were stuck at the Port of Dover in Kent as the Easter break started

A frustrated driver said: ‘There wasn’t enough food and the toilets ran out of toilet paper’

The enormous traffic jam was triggered by poor weather in France and stringent border checks by French customs, it was claimed 

Coach loads of children heading on school trips and holidaymakers were left trapped in their vehicles. 

One coach driver, who had 48 school children on board, claimed some of the youngsters were falling ill after not eating for more than 15 hours. 

READ MORE: No10 blames bad weather and the French for Dover chaos: ‘New processes’ brought in after Brexit mean officials are ‘stamping every single passport’ as pressure grows for ministers to get a grip on regular ports meltdown 

The children had been travelling from Swansea to Italy for a week-long ski trip. 

Coach driver Robert Kordula, 51, blasted port staff for a lack of information, with holidaymakers reportedly left in the dark about the hold-ups. 

He added: ‘There wasn’t enough food and the toilets ran out of toilet paper. We’ve heard nothing all night and it’s been more than 12 hours since we arrived at the port.

‘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.’

Furious parents slammed port bosses after their children were forced to endure ‘agonising’ delays with no food or water. 

One wrote on Saturday evening: ‘My young son has been at Dover since 11pm Friday night for the 2am ferry. He and all his school are stuck there still. No food, no water, no information whatsoever. These kids are getting very upset.’

Another wrote: The coaches are just a nightmare and they are full of school children and teachers. No food or water or info or anything has been supplied. My son left school over 24 hours ago…we’re in Dorset, 4 hours away from the port by Coach.’

With her daughter facing a night on the bus, Twitter user Leigh Shelton wrote: ‘My daughter on a Uni trip to Italy. Been at Dover since 10, they’ve been told poss travel tomorrow now. Given a packet of crisps, KitKat and water. Toilet on coach blocked.’

Twitter user Bianca Ford said her son was still stuck at the Port of Dover 24 hours after leaving home

One teacher revealed their party had no access to functioning toilets or drinking water

Port of Dover declared a critical incident on Friday night as thousands of passengers were delayed by up to 16 hours due to lengthy border checks, sheer volume and bad weather

P&O Ferries and DFDS Seaways issued statements saying the ferry and coach service delays were due to poor weather and French border issues.

But the coach industry demanded action to ensure a repeat of the carnage did not happen. 

Graham Vidler, chief executive of coach sector trade association the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), said: ‘We are pleased the Port of Dover have listened to our calls to bring in more frontier staff, but we still need ferry operators to improve their passenger advance information and for the port to introduce more coach priority measures.

‘While the traffic this weekend through the port will be smoothed out with no limits on vehicles, coach operators will work with the ferry companies to adjust sailing times where that is possible.

‘We hope the measures put in place at Dover will improve things for all road users and we will be watching the situation carefully to ensure continental coach travel through Dover can continue to thrive.’

Holidaymakers stranded in the queues had reported waiting times of up to 16 hours with some claiming to have been stuck for 17 hours 

Ferry operator DFDS today issued an alert on Twitter which said: ‘We are expecting a busy weekend with the Easter getaway through the port.

‘Please allow 120 minutes to complete border controls and check-in.’

It added: ‘We are expecting a busy weekend, possibly just as busy as last weekend.’

Delays at the port have been blamed on French border officials carrying out extra checks and stamping UK passports following Brexit.

Downing Street acknowledged that ‘new processes’ introduced following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union contributed to last weekend’s disruption, while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said ‘of course Brexit has had an impact’.

It is not clear whether another strike by French workers on Thursday in the ongoing row over pension reforms will affect ferry passengers.

In response to one passenger on Twitter, P&O Ferries wrote: ‘We’re planning to sail to our regular schedule at the moment, but we’re still advising for passengers to prepare for a wait just in case.’

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