‘800km of traffic’: European holiday season kicks off with gridlock

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Waiting for hours in a traffic jam is not exactly the way we’d all like to start our holidays, but that’s exactly what many Brits trying to cross the channel faced in Dover this weekend. 

Starting on Friday, there were huge queues in the southern English port as holidaymakers had to wait several hours to board ferries bound for France. 

Although the backlog started to clear Sunday morning, the kilometres-long tailback created a spat between the UK and French governments with both sides blaming one another for the delays.

Unions, port officials and French authorities claimed Brexit was causing the traffic problems encountered by British travellers, since longer checks are required now that the UK is no longer part of the EU.  

However, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who is currently campaigning to succeed Prime Minister Boris Johnson, blamed France. 

“The fact is that the French authorities have not put enough personnel at the border,” she said, putting the emphasis on France to resolve the situation.

 “I am very clear with them about this,” she added. 

Dough Bannister, Port of Dover’s chief executive, accused French authorities of not putting enough border police officers in place, yet recognised that “post Brexit” delays will increase. 

At the end of 2020, AFP reports that the British government refused a £33 (€39) million proposal to double control capacity on the French side of the border. 

‘800km of traffic’

There were also similar scenes of travel disruption across other European countries, as the peak vacation season gets underway. 

In France, traffic was particularly dense around Paris and between Lyon and Valence on Saturday. 

Authorities recorded a peak of 790 kilometres (490 miles) of traffic jams Saturday lunchtime on the main roads used by holidaymakers.

This peak was lower than the 930 kilometres (577 miles) recorded in France a year ago. 

The situation was “in line with forecasts”, indicated the Bison Futé website, which classified traffic conditions in the Rhône-Alpes region as black, the worst rating, orange at the national level and red in the Mediterranean arc in the return direction. 

In Croatia, as the tourist season reaches its peak, traffic has increased on all roads heading towards tourist destinations on the Adriatic coast.

Jelena Ivulić, a coordinator for the Croatian national sea shipping company, Jadrolinija, told Euronews passengers had been arriving in waves since the early hours of Saturday morning, with large crowds forming at the entrances of ferry ports. 

They expect over 75,0000 passengers and over 15, 0000 vehicles across the weekend. 

In Switzerland, holiday traffic at the Gotthard north portal was backed up for 15 kilometres with waiting times of up to 2 and a half hours.