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British holidaymakers face traffic misery

AAP logoAAP 24/07/2016 Aine Fox, Georgina Stubbs and Ryan Wilkinson

British holidaymakers are facing days of misery after police warned disruption on the roads to Dover, a key ferry port on the English Channel, could last until Monday.

Many travellers have been stuck in lengthy queues for hours, as they attempt to make their way towards the Channel at the beginning of the great summer getaway.

Officers have drafted in a police helicopter to help deliver supplies of water to motorists stranded in the chaos, while people setting out on their journeys are being advised to take supplies of food and drink as they face continued disruption.

Kent Police, who alongside the coastguard are delivering more than 11,000 bottles of water to travellers, said the disruption is down to a "vast volume of holiday traffic" coupled with delays caused by heightened security at the border.

Increased checks were put in place by French authorities at the port in light of recent terror attacks, but questions have been raised as to staffing levels to deal with the huge increase in people travelling at this time.

Port authorities said French border control booths at Dover had been "seriously understaffed overnight", claiming coaches were at one point having to wait 40 minutes each for all passengers to be checked in.

A spokesman said concerns about staffing levels were raised with the government earlier in the week, and said those had been passed to French authorities.

But Conservative MP for Dover Charlie Elphicke, who was stuck in traffic for around two hours on Friday evening, said there had been a lack of forward planning which led to "poor transport management".

Those stuck on the roads, some for at least seven hours, described the situation as "tragic" and said they were frustrated at the lack of information as to when the disruption might end.

Police advised people to stay in their cars.

"Traffic is stop and start and exiting vehicles can be dangerous. Delays have also been caused by motorists not being with their vehicles when traffic starts moving."

Earlier on Saturday motorists described people getting out of their vehicles to stretch their legs, and children playing football to entertain themselves.

Police said disruption is set to continue "for the next 36 to 48 hours".

Elphicke said the situation was "completely unacceptable" and should have been predicted.

"The Department for Transport and Home Office knew there would be heightened security checks in place in France. They should have been prepared. They weren't.

"The families stuck in this traffic nightmare should by now be across the Channel enjoying their holidays.

"They are owed an apology, as are the people of Dover who once again have to put up with traffic chaos in the town.

"The government needs to take control of the situation on the road and help families and vulnerable people stranded in the tailbacks.

"The extra French border checks are no excuse for poor transport management."

A government spokesman said: "People's safety is paramount. We are acutely aware of the effect the disruption is having in the Dover area and we continue to co-operate with the French authorities about a range of operational matters.

"We recognise the extraordinary security pressures that French law enforcement organisations are under at this time and are working closely with them and commercial partners to ensure passengers and hauliers of goods are processed as efficiently as possible on both sides of the channel.

"We are also working closely with Highways England, Kent Police and the Port of Dover to tackle the disruption."

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