Dover Fights to Avoid Travel Chaos Ahead of Half-Term Exodus at Ferry Port

The Port of Dover has ramped up its capacity ahead of an expected surge in holidaymakers when England’s schools break for half-term this week.

(Bloomberg) — The Port of Dover has ramped up its capacity ahead of an expected surge in holidaymakers when England’s schools break for half-term this week.

Extra bus lanes and a special processing facility will be used in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the travel chaos over Easter when people waited hours to get through passport control on their way to the continent.

As many as 350 buses and coaches and 5,500 cars are expected to descend on the UK’s busiest port on Friday.

Doug Bannister, CEO of the Port of Dover, said the processing facility, located outside the ferry terminal, is a paved area that used to be a boat yard. Coaches will wait in the facility while officials check passengers’ information before they cross the English Channel.

Bannister said the facility, which has toilets and water-filling stations, will help to avoid congestion.

Passport checks are more stringent since Britain left the European Union. At Easter, some Conservatives said delays were not due to Brexit, however. Local Member of Parliament Natalie Elphicke said on Twitter that disruption had been caused by “French border control problems,” triggering a political row.

Read More: Travel Chaos at Dover Revives UK Argument Over Brexit Effect

A temporary tent which was erected over Easter for passport checks will also be in operation this week, he added. Extra staff are being brought in to support travelers.

Still, Bannister said he cannot predict what will happen.

“If there’s industrial action, a technical failure, or bad weather, these are things that are unforeseen,” he said during a phone interview. “If there’s a traffic accident on the motorway and cars are delayed coming to the port, that will be a challenge.”

Holidaymakers could be waiting for as much as an hour and a half at peak time, Bannister said.

‘Mass Exodus’

Toby Howe, from the Kent Resilience Forum which manages emergency response in the county, said he’s predicting a “mass exodus” of people crossing the English Channel as schools take half-term at the same time. At Easter, private schools had a longer break than state schools.

Howe said the coach processing facility will act as a “pressure valve” to eliminate backlogs caused by large coaches in the queue to get to Calais, France.

Operation Brock, a contraflow system which keeps traffic on the motorway and limits tailbacks around the crossing, is already in place. Howe said the system helps to relieve traffic around Dover, taking the strain off local neighborhoods.

Ferry operator DFDS A/S said it worked with the Port of Dover to create the coach processing facility. A spokesperson for Flixbus, a coach firm, said it has shared its arrival times with the Port of Dover and “there will be no excuse for delays at the crossing as long as adequate border staffing has been put in place.”

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