Gridlock at Dover as lorries wait for disrupted ferry services

Motorists are facing huge queues and gridlocked roads into Dover after a buildup of lorries waiting for disrupted ferry services at the Kent port.

Drivers are reporting queueing in traffic for hours to board ferries, while part of the M20 is being used to park lorries. The disruption is being caused by a shortage of ferries and poor weather conditions.

Under Operation Brock, the traffic management system designed to deal with the queues of trucks heading for mainland Europe, the eastbound side of the road is open only for freight between junctions eight and nine. The London-bound side of the road remains open to all traffic.

The system, which was created under emergency powers after Brexit, was meant to expire in October 2021, but has since been made permanent.

The traffic chaos, which began on Friday, has prevented local residents from being able to drive to the shops or to work, according to Kent Online. Drivers faced miles of queues on Friday on the M2 and M20.

Operation Brock is activated as lorries queue on the M20 in Ashford
Operation Brock is activated as lorries queue on the M20 in Ashford. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

The delays come as P&O Ferries services have been reduced at the port, after the company sacked nearly 800 workers without notice last month. The firm laid off 786 crew on British contracts issued out of Jersey in March. Criminal and civil investigations have been launched into the operator’s conduct, and it has not yet been granted permission to continue sailing to France staffed by cheaper agency workers.

The Port of Dover said: “The main approach roads to the port are currently very busy. The ongoing impact of the lack of any P&O services continues to affect remaining ferry operations with the commencement of the Easter getaway period.

“Operators are working hard to process the traffic, clear local congestion and get people on their way as swiftly as possible. Tourist traffic continues to move through the port.”

It asked passengers to allow extra time for their journey and follow their operator for updates, while advising local traffic “to use alternative routes where possible”.

The MP for Dover, Natalie Elphicke, blamed the queues partly on P&O Ferries, adding that the company was still not operating after “failed safety checks” on its new crews. She said the disruption was expected to last for the next few days.

Elphicke said: “The traffic disruption caused by P&O’s actions is very serious. Coupled with adverse weather conditions and the Easter getaway traffic, the situation has become severe. This can be expected to continue for the next few days.” She added that the delays had caused “unacceptable impact” locally.

The cross-Channel situation was further worsened after a DFDS ferry, Dover Seaways, hit a berth in Dunkirk amid strong winds on Thursday evening. It had been removed from service for repairs and would not be available until at least Monday, the company said.

The operator said: “All services from Dover to Calais and Dunkirk are disrupted this morning due to the weather conditions yesterday and overnight.” It advised customers to travel to the port of Dover and check in as normal, adding that members of its customer support team were at the port to assist customers and keep them informed of the situation.

National Highways said it was helping to manage traffic on the M20 together with Kent police.

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “We are aware of queues at Dover, and the Kent Resilience Forum and local partners are working to minimise any disruption by deploying temporary traffic management measures as standard. This has been caused by a number of factors, including severe weather in the Channel.”

Some increase in traffic was expected as families travel across the Channel for Easter, as holidays have already begun for some schools. Separately, passengers flying abroad are also bracing for delays amid staff shortages in UK airports.

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