Britons heading off on holiday by ferry faced hours-long waits at the port of Dover on Friday, with authorities blaming French officials for the chaos.
Dover authorities said a lack of French border officials was leading to waits of up to six hours for border checks at the English Channel port, with queues of tourist and freight traffic snarling roads for miles kilometres.
Port authorities said in a statement that the number of French border police “has been insufficient and has fallen far short of what is required to ensure a smooth first weekend of the peak summer getaway period.”
Since Britain left the European Union in 2020, UK travellers face stricter border checks when travelling to the continent. At Dover, they are performed on the English side of the channel by French staff.
Port of Dover chief executive Doug Bannister said the port had declared a “critical incident."
“We’ve been badly let down this morning by the French border," he said.
He urged travellers to “consider holding off heading for the port at this point in time until more is known."
Ferry operator P&O said “there are currently queues in excess of four hours to reach the border controls” at Dover. It urged travellers to “arrive prepared for a prolonged wait. Carry snacks and additional water with you.”
Travel chaos in the UK
Millions of people in Britain trying to start vacations this weekend — the start of the summer holidays for most schools — face the threat of disruption by road, sea, rail and air.
Protesters against high fuel prices say they are planning rolling roadblocks Friday on routes to southwest England, a popular holiday destination.
The problems follow days of travel disruption on Britain’s railways after a heat wave brought record-smashing 40 degree Celsius temperatures to the UK, buckling rails and starting lineside fires.
Rail workers also staged nationwide strikes last month in a dispute over pay and conditions, and plan more walkouts next week
Air travel has also been hit, in Britain and around the world, as airlines and airports struggle to cope with the return of mass travel following two years of pandemic disruption.