Thousands of Britons have been caught up in traffic chaos at the port of Dover this morning as a wave of holidaymakers make a break to the continent for the Bank Holiday weekend.
And those flying by air also suffer delays with long queues at Bristol and Manchester airports.
It is predicted that up to 5,500 cars and 350 coaches will pass through the cross-channel ferry terminal today and the port is under pressure to take measures to avoid traffic congestion after reporting a critical incident this Easter.
Chief executive Doug Bannister says the port has revised traffic volumes since the 17-hour Easter delays and urges ferry operators to work with coach operators to ease traffic flow.
He told the BBC: “We have created a new processing center in the western part of the port to better monitor traffic coming into the port and control advanced passenger information.”
DOVER: Traffic congestion for ferries at Dover harbor in Kent as the outing for the Spring Break and Bank Holiday weekend begins
DOVER: Port bosses are keen to avoid a repeat of Easter, with some travelers waiting for up to 17 hours
BRISTOL: Passengers lined up at check-in counters this morning
MANCHESTER: Holidaymakers queuing this morning to check in at terminal 2 of Manchester Airport
DOVER: Some drivers have already left their cars and are waiting at the side of the road
The port also has a covered area where buses go for passenger passport checks.
Doug added: “And finally, what we’ve done is we’ve been working with all of our port partners, but especially Police aux Frontières, to make sure that the resource levels are what we need, to make sure are that we have the flow rates. And they responded very well.’
He said the port had considered asking ferry companies to limit passenger bookings, but decided to work with them to ease congestion.
He added: “We looked into it. But to be honest, what I would rather do is make sure we come together collectively and try to meet the needs of the coach industry as best we can.”
However, Doug claims that “it would be foolish” to guarantee that there will be no more queues at the port.
He added, “Because one of the things we’ve found is that things happen, right.
“But what I can say is that we have taken all the measures, all the processes have installed new facilities, to ensure as best as possible that those queues cannot happen again.”
DOVER: Cars are lined up today to get through check-in and security at the port
DOVER: At intervals in the huge queue, the vehicles come to a complete standstill
DOVER: Trucks, cars and coaches have all been stuck in traffic this morning
DOVER: Port bosses said earlier that ‘it would be foolish’ to guarantee that there will be no more queues
Meanwhile, security guards at Heathrow Airport are currently embroiled in a pay dispute with members of Unite who have been holding a 15-day union campaign, including over the busy Easter period.
Heathrow said it has contingency plans to keep the airport open and operating normally, adding that passengers can expect a “smooth” half-time holiday.
Meanwhile, motorists are being told to expect ‘hectic’ traffic on what is expected to be the busiest late May bank holiday weekend on the roads since 2019.
A survey of 2,138 motorists for the RAC found that there will be 19.2 million car journeys in the UK between Friday and Monday.
The worst traffic for the four days is expected today, when holiday-goers will compete for road space with commuters.
Transport data company Inrix expects journeys on some stretches of the M25 to take up to three times longer than normal.
They include clockwise from Junction 23 for Hatfield to Junction 28 for Chelmsford, and anti-clockwise towards Dartford Crossing.
Long delays are also expected on the M5 in Somerset and the M6 in Cheshire and Greater Manchester.
BRISTOL: Passengers flying from Bristol airport have endured long queues
RAC Breakdown spokesman Rod Dennis said: “With the travel restrictions imposed during Covid thankfully a distant memory, it is clear that drivers’ desire to get away has been rekindled, with our figures for this coming weekend suggesting that traffic volumes for leisure activities will come close to what we last saw in 2019.
“The Met Office is currently forecasting mostly calm weather with above average temperatures, so we expect this to be a hectic period on the main roads as people look to make the most of the last long weekend before August.
“With so many households struggling financially, we fear that a lack of essential maintenance could lead to more avoidable breakdowns than we would normally see.
“A quick look at the oil and coolant levels, along with checking that the tires are in good condition and properly inflated, can go a long way toward avoiding an unwanted stop at the side of the road this weekend.”
Traffic control measures have already been put in place to manage the flow of lorries on the M20 to Dover.
The Kent Resilience Forum, which manages contingency planning for the county, told the BBC: ‘Passenger forecasts from both the Eurotunnel and the Port of Dover point to an extremely busy period for cross-Channel traffic over the bank holiday weekend at the end of May.
“This also coincides with schools in the UK half breaking up.”