Massive delays stall England-to-France vehicle traffic

LONDON – British border agents moved in Sunday to help French officials ease the gigantic backups for travellers trying to cross the English Channel into France.

By Sunday afternoon, police said the backlog that saw some motorists waiting up to 10 hours or more had eased but that delays and disruptions can be expected on the route for the next few weeks.

The delays in Channel crossings come at the start of the British holiday season, when tens of thousands of vacationers head to continental Europe. France is the traditional jumping-off point for car travel to Spain, Italy, Switzerland and other popular destinations.

French officials have expanded border checks during the state of emergency declared after repeated extremist attacks, and the increased security has led to the lines of stalled cars and trucks on the roads leading to the English port of Dover. Police said travellers should try to stay off the highways and use smaller roads to avoid the traffic jams.

Travellers were advised to bring extra water and food on any journey involving a Channel crossing. The weather has been hot and humid, adding to the discomfort of stranded motorists.

Volunteers were delivering granola bars and bottled water to motorists and police helicopters were dropping water bottles to help the stranded travellers.

Volunteer Ravi Singh said motorists were “very, very frustrated and pulling their hair out” because of the delays and the lack of food, water or toilet facilities.

“We met a lot of young families with children, mostly people going on holidays, some heading back home to France,” he said. “There was just total frustration. People didn’t know what was going on.”

He said many people had missed their ferry connections due to the travel chaos that began Friday night.