Folkestone has replaced Dover as Britain’s ‘hotspot of holiday hell’ after port staff managed to clear a backlog of 200 miles of traffic from the weekend.

Border and ferry staff worked “through the night” to clear “huge volumes of tourist and freight traffic”, so that services at Dover were finally able to “get back to normal by the early hours of Sunday morning”, a port spokesperson said.

Port officials say they have processed 72,000 vehicles so far this weekend, with the time needed to get through the border and onto ferries reduced from what it was on Friday and Saturday.

But a critical incident is still in place across Kent, alongside Operation Brock, with the AA claiming the worst congestion is now around the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Highways England is warning of “severe delays”, while drivers are reporting average speeds of just 5mph in some places.

Cars queue at the check-in at the Port of Dover in Kent
Cars queue at the check-in at the Port of Dover in Kent

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy of the at the AA, said: “Dover has now recovered, but Folkestone has become the hotspot of holiday hell.

“Drivers are now trying to find alternative routes down to the Eurotunnel terminal at J11a on the M20. Holidaymakers are trying to use the M2 and then find ways to ‘drop down’ into the A20 and the terminal via the back roads.

More on Dover

“Drivers heading to Folkestone need to be prepared.”

John Keefe, the director of public affairs at Eurotunnel, insisted that they are running a “normal service”, but they are aware of “significant difficulties on the roads”.

“It’s difficult to answer why they’re there,” he told Sky News.

“Once people get through to our check-in, they are moving through as they normally would.”

He said more staff had been laid on from the French side as that has been “quieter” but passport checks are accounted for in normal processing times.

14-hour queues for Eurotunnel

Many trying to reach the Eurotunnel have reported setting off in the middle of the night in a bid to catch their trains. One passenger claimed they had to queue for 14 hours.

Stuart and Janet Harrison, who are travelling to their holiday home in Austria, said they weren’t hopeful of making their train because of the queues.

“We originally considered flying and it’s so expensive so we thought we’d drive,” they told Sky News.

Another couple, Lucy and Nick, said they didn’t bother arriving early, as queuing all day was inevitable anyway.

“We didn’t come early. They’re going to put us on today, so I don’t think coming early makes any difference,” Lucy said.

Asked who was to blame, she added: “This has happened because of Brexit hasn’t it. We are very anti-Brexit. But we have to put up with it.”

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Passengers in the queue for Folkestone Eurotunnel

Sky News correspondent Sabah Choudhry, who is in Dover, confirmed that the queues around the port now appear to be much shorter.

“Passengers this morning have been told that their wait time is looking to be around two to three hours – so certainly some welcome news for parents with children,” she said.

P&O Ferries tweeted this morning saying there are “currently no queues in or around the port”, but still advised leaving two hours before check-in, with port officials also urging people to check with ferry companies before travel.

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‘It could take three hours to travel a mile’

Both border points say they are seeing fewer travellers today then Friday and Saturday.

The Eurotunnel is set for 7,000 cars – down on the 8,500 on Saturday, while at Dover 6,500 vehicles are expected, down significantly on the 10,000 the previous day.

The long delays have been blamed on slow border checks, Brexit, huge numbers of travellers setting out at the start of the British school summer holidays, as well as the usual flow of goods lorries.

The UK government had blamed a shortage of French border staff, and the French government had argued that passport checks were taking longer now that the UK is no longer part of the European Union.

On Friday, 8,500 cars were processed, but by lunchtime on Saturday, the number processed had already reached more than 17,000.

Natalie Chapman from haulier group Logistics UK said some lorry drivers have waited “in excess of 18 hours” to cross the Channel over the weekend.

Residents in Kent are also affected, unable to travel by car as they would normally due to the congestion.

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Cars queue at the check-in at the Port of Dover in Kent as many families embark on getaways at the start of summer holidays for many schools in England and Wales. Staffing at French border control at the Port of Dover is "woefully inadequate" causing holidaymakers to be stuck in long queues, the Kent port said. Picture date: Friday July 22, 2022.

UK claims lack of resources while French blame Brexit

French regional prefect Georges-François Leclerc was asked by BFM TV if French customs officers were to blame for the delays seen on Friday and Saturday.

He said they were not, adding: “The Port of Dover, which is a private port, found it easier to blame the French police.”

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who is competing to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister, said: “This is a situation that has been caused by a lack of resource at the border.

“That is what the French authorities need to address and that is what I’m being very clear with them about.”

Anneliese Dodds, Labour Party chair, said the government had failed “to get a grip” on the problem, labelling it “chaos”.

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