Expats face Black Saturday traffic chaos crossing the Channel as thousands of French and British holidaymakers gear up for travel between the two countries.
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The 22-mile Strait of Dover is already one of the most congested sea lanes in the world, but security checks will slow ferries docking and departing the port to a crawl.
Last weekend, tailbacks stretched 12 miles leading into the port, while drivers and passengers had to wait in queues of cars, coaches and lorries for up to 15 hours to clear strict anti-terrorist controls to enter and leave France.
On top of this, Saturday is also the traditional getaway weekend for families in France, Belgium and Holland to travel south to sunny Mediterranean beaches.
Gridlock is predicted not only on the M2 motorway and Dover, but for many main routes across France.
Traffic authorities in Britain and France are urging drivers to travel on Sunday if they can to relieve the jams.
In France, a highway authority spokesman warned almost every main route will be affected by massive tailbacks.
The Port of Dover sympathised with the plight of travellers but blamed most of the delays on French border control officers – and pointed out that at one time only a single customs officer was on duty to check passports and luggage on hundreds of coaches leaving for France.
“The French authorities were severely understaffed and each coach check was taking around 40 minutes, which seriously delayed sailings,” said a spokesman for the Dover port.
The checks were so slow that British border guards were sent in as reinforcements to speed up the process.
Busiest weekend of the year
The Dover authority expects traffic and ferries to move freer this weekend.
“We have discussed the problem with the French and hope the delays will improve for this weekend,” said a spokesman.
“Nevertheless, this is our busiest weekend in the year and we hope travellers understand the problems and realise we are doing all we can to help.”
“When arriving, travellers should check the overhead gantry and choose the correct lane, stay in the lane and stay with your vehicle. Have passports ready and open on the photo page to speed up the process.”
More delays are expected on August 6, another key weekend for the French to depart on their summer holidays.
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