Long queues of lorries built up on approach roads to Dover this week because of a spike in freight traffic and not because of Brexit, the Port has said.
However, drivers on the road expressed fury over the delays, describing the situation as “absolute carnage” and blaming a mixture of delays in Brexit checks and Covid paperwork.
Highways England confirmed that high volumes of traffic had led to queues but with Brexit checks in place for more than a year, drivers were baffled as to why this week had been so bad.
The increase in freight traffic meant that the Operation Travel Access Protocol (TAP), a temporary traffic management system, which was devised for heavy traffic times in 2015, was put in place on Wednesday and Thursday leading to tailbacks on the A20.
Operational reports show that it was in place from 4am to 10pm on Wednesday.
It was also in place for long periods on Thursday between 8am and 11.30am and 1pm to 7pm, as traffic built up again.
Operation TAP has been used on 10 of the past 21 days.
“A20 Dover TAP has indeed been in place for short periods of time this week. TAP is a well established and regularly used normal operational tool to help manage traffic flows into the Port of Dover at busy times and it has been for a number of years. This was the case yesterday as it has been similarly over the past few days,” said a spokesperson for the Port of Dover.
Freight traffic usually surges in the third week of January after the Christmas break but drivers said the delays this week caught many by surprise.
One driver, Ciaran Donovan, who has been posting about Brexit checks for the past three years, said it was taking “10-20m per vehicle to process paperwork”, adding sarcastically it had “absolutely nothing to do with Brexit apart from the fact Covid has nothing to do with it”.
Queues appeared to have eased on Saturday, with one website that tracks driver experiences on the road claiming the queue stretched back just more than one mile.
Earlier this week the Port of Dover said it was concerned queues could get much worse in September, when airport-style biometric checks are due to be implemented.
Doug Bannister, the chief executive of the port, is looking for urgent meetings with the government amid fears the checks will add delays and cause danger.
“As currently designed, the biometric checks work well at an airport or a rail terminal, but they’re not designed for a busy roll-on, roll-off ferry terminal.
“If it is forcing people to get out of their vehicles inside of a busy port, that is just unsafe. We couldn’t allow that to happen. That will lead to increased queues, no doubt,” he told the BBC.
Earlier this week the House of Commons transport select committee visited Dover as part of a fact-finding mission ahead of the introduction of the checks in September.
The committee chair, Huw Merriman, said it was important that the British and French worked together to find a solution, adding: “We have to rely on the French to assist us here as well. It causes as much damage over in Calais as it will here in the Port Dover.”