Getaway Britons facing Dover delays as ferry services disrupted

Reuters file photo
Vehicles disembark from a cross-channel ferry in the Port of Dover in Britain in December 2020.

LONDON, April 2 (Reuters) — Lorries and holiday motorists heading to France from Britain were on Saturday facing long delays due to a shortage of ferries at the Port of Dover, while airport travelers have also been warned to expect queues.

Many schools in Britain broke up for the two-week Easter holiday on Friday, putting more pressure on limited ferry capacity at the port, just when Britons have been freed of COVID-19 restrictions and are traveling abroad in greater numbers.

Cross-channel ferry capacity between Dover, the main sea gateway to continental Europe, and the French ports of Calais and Dunkirk had already been disrupted after P&O Ferries services were suspended following its sacking of 800 workers last month. The company is yet to be given clearance to resume sailings using cheaper agency staff.

Poor weather overnight has made the situation worse.

“The main approach roads to the Port are currently very busy. The ongoing impact of the lack of any P&O services continues to affect remaining ferry operations with the commencement of the Easter getaway period,” the Port of Dover said in a statement.

It appealed to passengers to allow extra time for their journeys.

The Department for Transport said it was aware of queues at Dover.

“The Kent Resilience Forum and local partners are working to minimize any disruption by deploying temporary traffic management measures,” the department said in a statement.

“This has been caused by a number of factors, including severe weather in the Channel.”

Airline passengers were also set for long waits at British airports over the Easter holiday period due to a chronic shortage of check-in staff, security personnel and baggage handlers.

“We do think that there will be queues at peak times over the Easter period,” Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, told the BBC.

She said the industry needed to recruit “tens of thousands” of staff as it scales up after Britain’s COVID-19 restrictions on travel were removed.

London’s Heathrow airport alone needed another 12,000 staff, she said.

“We’ve started this process some time a go, but actually with those scale of numbers, particularly in a tight labor market, it is going to take us some time unfortunately,” she added.