Good Friday gridlock
Motorway chaos as millions take to the roads for the Big Getaway
BRITISh holidaymakers heading for France were hit by long delays yesterday because of heightened security checks by the French at the start of the Easter weekend.
The timing of the crackdown as millions tried to get away for the holiday was questioned by an MP and those stuck in queues.
The delays were caused by French border checks at Dover, part of the reciprocal security arrangements which allow British officials to check vehicles and passengers leaving France. Thousands of passengers at Stansted Airport also had their travel plans thrown into chaos after a shuttle bus parked on the forecourt of the terminal building caught fire.
Parts of the airport in Essex were evacuated as plumes of thick black smoke billowed from the vehicle before the fire was put out at around 5pm. No one was injured, but dozens of flights were delayed. In Dover, P&O Ferries said there were hold-ups of up to two hours at the port and ferries were held for as long as possible to give passengers time to get on board.
Long queues formed on the A20 and A2 into the Kent port and freight trucks had to park as part of a scheme to stagger their arrival at the port.
Dover MP Charlie Elphicke said: ‘Families stuck in queues waiting to cross the Channel will rightly ask why this is being done on the busiest of days. It’s critical to get traffic flowing faster. No one wants to see a repeat of the huge queues and gridlock we have seen in the past.’
Tom Webzell, 74, of Margate, who was travelling to Paris with his wife Christine, 62, added: ‘It is usually the French controllers on strike. It’s quite frustrating.’
A teacher leading a school skiing trip of 50 pupils and six staff from Southampton said the French border officials’ timing was ‘petty’. The man, who did not want to be named, said: ‘They must know they are going to cause maximum disruption. It is hard not to think it is something to do with Brexit.’
Problems had eased by lunchtime, although there were still queues of around an hour inside the port.
Transport experts expect this weekend to be one of the busiest in years on roads, railways and at airports. The RAC said around 19million leisure journeys would be made over Easter.
Cancelled rail services will cause widespread disruption throughout the weekend, with no Thameslink trains between London Bridge and Brighton and buses replacing trains on several other routes.
The Association of British Travel Agents estimated that 2.1million Britons would be heading abroad after schools closed for the holidays on Thursday.
Unsuspecting drivers are being hit with parking fines of up to £120 on bank holidays by councils looking to increase revenue. Motorists, who may assume that parking is free on public holiidays, are being urged to check if usual restrictions still apply.
‘Stuck in long queues’
Bus in flames: The fire outside the main terminal at Stansted Airport