Dover-bound holidaymakers warned to take food and drink after ‘perfect storm’ causes Easter travel chaos

Holidaymakers heading towards Dover or the Eurotunnel have been warned to take food and drink with them as a “perfect storm” of problems caused more Easter traffic chaos.

There have been huge tailbacks along roads in Kent for days after P&O Ferries’ crossings were cancelled following its sacking of nearly 800 seafarers.

A surge in motorists heading to the continent as well as technical issues over the website for post-Brexit documentation and bad weather have also added to lengthy jams.

More than 2,000 lorries are stuck along a 23-mile stretch of the M20 towards the Port of Dover, according to hauliers.

Lorry drivers who had faced waits of up to 26 hours told i they had been treated like “animals” and left without water, toilets or food.

Toby Howe, tactical lead at the Kent Resilience Forum, advised travellers to France to “allow a lot of extra time” when setting off by car.

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“In Kent we have had the perfect storm,” Mr Howe said about recent tailbacks.

“Make sure you have got some food and drink because there will be delays. A lot of the minor roads, therefore, are chock-a-block.”

But traffic management plans put in place now meant Eurotunnel and the Port of Dover “are able to operate as they need”, he insisted.

The Road Haulage Association has said 2,000 trucks were stuck in queues of more than 20 miles along the M20 after the implementation of Operation Brock – the contraflow system set up to ensure traffic can flow in the event of cross-Channel disruption at Dover.

Worldwide traffic chaos

A 23-mile coastbound stretch of the M20 has been closed in Kent from junction 8 at Maidstone, to junction 11 at Hythe to manage trucks heading towards Dover or Folkestone’s Eurotunnel.

There are reports of lorry drivers taking 30 hours to travel the 40 miles from junction eight to Dover.  But the current chaos on roads to the port is dwarfed by tailbacks that have hit other parts of the world.

On 13 August, 2010, a 10-day traffic jam hit China’s National Highway, with drivers stuck in queues of more than 60 miles. Journeys along the Beijing-Tibet expressways took up to three days as in influx of vehicles overwhelmed roads

According to the Guinness World Records, the longest traffic jam in history was 109 miles long on a route of road between Lyon and Paris on February 16, 1980, with holidaymakers and bad weather blamed for the mass snarl-up.

The longest jam by the number of vehicles came when 18 million cars crawled bumper-to-bumper along the East–West German border on 12 April, 1990, as thousands of Germans headed across the border, five months after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The road usually averaged half a million drivers a day. 

In September, 2005, as many as 2.5 million residents in Houston, Texas, fleeing Hurricane Rita caused a 100-mile queue on Interstate 45, with drivers stranded for up to 24 hours on the route from Galveston to Denver.

In August, 1990, in Tokyo, Japan, more than 15,000 cars were stuck in an 84-mile jam between Hyogo and Shiga as holidaymakers and residents fleeing the city after a typhoon warning caused huge tailbacks.

Russian drivers were caught in a 125-mile jam on a highway between Moscow and St. Petersburg in December, 2012, following heavy snowfall.

The 1969 Woodstock Festival caused tailbacks of 20 miles on the New York Thruway after 500,000 revellers clogged the road to the three-day music extravaganza.

Operation Brock aims to ensure the M20 remains open in both directions, with lorries heading to France directed to the coastbound carriageway to park.

Truckers stuck in the queues have criticised the “disgusting” lack of toilet facilities and say the delays are also pushing them over their 15-hour daily work threshold, which risks them breaking the law or a fine.

Operation Brock was deployed on 21 March as a result of reduced ferry capacity at Dover, four days after P&O sacked its workers and paused operations.

P&O Ferries accounted for a third of all capacity at Dover, with three of its ferries still docked at the Kent port.

Oher ferry operators say increased demand due to the Easter break means they have no spare capacity until Monday.

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