Dover delay: trade bodies respond
Following chronic delays for coaches crossing to France from the Port of Dover last weekend, RHA is concerned checks could take even longer in the future.
The trade body believes there could be even more delay when the EU introduces the new requirements for biometric data checks – the Entry Exit System (EES) – scheduled for the end of this year.
The RHA has spoken to the Port of Dover which has spelt out a number of steps to avoid a repeat of last weekend’s chaos that saw coaches stranded for up to 12 hours while they waited for a ferry to France.
Demand for coach travel is likely to be down by a third this weekend compared with last Friday and Saturday. Ferry operators have worked with coach companies to move journeys times around to avoid a crush. A new temporary holding infrastructure has been set up to process coaches if queues build up. Dover says they have worked with French customs to ensure adequate staffing.
In addition. P&O Ferries says discussions with port authorities over the situation this coming Easter weekend are ‘ongoing and dynamic’ and aimed at minimising disruption.
Easter is a traditionally busy time for coach travel and questions are being asked about why the system was so unprepared for a high volume of coach trips.
Dover and ferry operators point out that the post-Brexit requirement to individually scan and stamp all passports for passengers entering the EU has created capacity problems at the port which has a limited road and holding infrastructure. It took up to an hour to process a single coachload last weekend.
RHA coach members have complained that there simply were not enough French customs staff on duty to handle the volume of passports. Officials at Dover say the main reason for the delay was the number of coaches exceeding the port’s capacity.
“We believe that its wrong that people who choose an environmentally friendly method of transport – coaches as opposed to cars – should be punished in this way” – RHA
A statement on the RHA’s website said: “The RHA calls on the authorities, including ports and ferry companies as well as the French and UK governments to urgently work together to improve border processing time. We believe that its wrong that people who choose an environmentally friendly method of transport – coaches as opposed to cars – should be punished in this way. It potentially damages the tourism coach sector as well as causing passengers anger and frustration.”
More staff, coach lanes and tech
More border staff, increased coach lanes and greater use of new technology provide the key to curing the congestion at the Port of Dover, says the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT).
CPT has made it clear in a letter to the Port of Dover, it would oppose any restrictions on coach numbers, as it would be an unacceptable and backward step. Instead, CPT is calling for adequate resourcing and proper preparation ahead of this weekend and other forthcoming busy periods.
“Coach passengers should be welcomed and prioritised, rather than being made to wait hours due to unacceptable delays” – Graham Vidler, Chief Executive of the Confederation of Passenger Transport
Graham Vidler, Chief Executive of the Confederation of Passenger Transport, said: “Coach is the most efficient and environmentally-friendly way of moving large numbers of people across the Channel. Coach passengers should be welcomed and prioritised, rather than being made to wait hours due to unacceptable delays.
“This is why the Port of Dover needs to work with all parties to properly resource border control checks and the efficient embarkation of people and vehicles on to ferries.”
CPT is proposing the following solutions, so that all vehicles can access the Port without restrictions. These involve:
- Properly resourcing the border controls by providing more UK and French border staff to speed up passport checks.
- More coach priority lanes on the approach to the Port.
- Encouraging Irish and P&O ferries to introduce a driver ‘app’ like DFDS, which enables the provision of advance information. DFDS’ app reduces the onboarding time for coaches by around 15 minutes per vehicle.