Limiting coach capacity at Dover ‘unacceptable and backward’, say operators

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Coach operators have declared they would oppose capacity restrictions at the Port of Dover.

Trade association, the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), said limiting the number of coaches allowed to use the Kent port would be “an unacceptable and backward step”.

There is speculation restrictions could be imposed after many holidaymakers travelling by coach last weekend – the start of the Easter holiday period for many schools – were delayed for several hours entering the port and being processed.

There are fears of a repeat of the disruption this weekend, with the Thursday before Easter being one of the busiest days of the year for international coach travel from the UK.

Ferry operator DFDS issued an alert on Twitter which stated: “We are expecting a busy weekend with the Easter getaway through the port.

“Please allow 120 minutes to complete border controls and check-in.”

It added: “We are expecting a busy weekend, possibly just as busy as last weekend.”

The CPT called for a series of measures to cut congestion at Dover.

Measures include:
– More border staff to speed up passport checks;
– More coach priority lanes on the approach to the port;
– Encourage Irish Ferries and P&O Ferries to introduce a driver app, like the one used by DFDS, to cut processing times for coaches by enabling information to be sent in advance.

Chief executive Graham Vidler said: “Coach is the most efficient and environmentally-friendly way of moving large numbers of people across the Channel.

“Coach passengers should be welcomed and prioritised, rather than being made to wait hours due to unacceptable delays.

“Maundy Thursday is typically one of the busiest days of the year for coaches, so a repeat of the recent delays must be avoided as we head into Easter weekend.

“This is why the Port of Dover needs to work with all parties to properly resource border control checks and the efficient embarkation of people and vehicles on to ferries.”

Delays at the port have been blamed on French border officials carrying out extra checks and stamping UK passports following Brexit.

Downing Street acknowledged that “new processes” introduced following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union contributed to last weekend’s disruption, while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said “of course Brexit has had an impact”.

It is not clear whether another strike by French workers on Thursday in the ongoing row over pension reforms will affect ferry passengers.

In response to one passenger on Twitter, P&O Ferries wrote: “We’re planning to sail to our regular schedule at the moment, but we’re still advising for passengers to prepare for a wait just in case.”

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