Calais strike clogs British motorway with 3,000 trucks

1st July 2015, Comments 0 comments

British police closed off sections of motorway to park some 3,000 trucks waiting to board ferries to France on Wednesday as striking ferry workers blocked the port of Calais for a third consecutive day.

"Due to the disruption at French ports, HGVs (heavy goods vehicles) destined for Port of Dover and Eurotunnel terminals are being 'stacked' on the M20," the local Kent police force said in a statement.

One section of motorway was full with 2,300 trucks and around half of a second section with capacity for another 2,300 was also filled as part of a contingency plan named "Operation Stack".

Teams of British coastguards were deployed to hand out some 5,000 bottles of water and 750 snack meals to truck drivers stuck for hours in the long tailbacks in sweltering temperatures.

A ticketing system is being implemented and only drivers with tickets can enter Dover itself.

"We sincerely regret the impact to the travelling public, freight and the Dover community of a situation that is beyond our control," a Port of Dover spokesman said.

"We will continue to monitor the situation closely in liaison with our ferry partners and the Port of Calais in order to resume normal operations as soon as possible," he added.

British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke to French President Francois Hollande about the problem and Britain's ambassador to France Peter Ricketts was expected to visit Calais to speak with port officials.

"We are making sure we are doing all we can to get Calais back open," Cameron's spokeswoman said.

The British Road Haulage Association's chief executive Richard Burnett complained the situation was turning into "absolute mayhem".

"The UK and French governments must acknowledge their responsibilities to all Port of Calais users, move in and act. If this means deployment of the armed forces then so be it," he said.

"Let's get this desperate mess sorted out now and talk about a long term solution afterwards. The scale of the current situation has to be seen to be believed," he said.

Dover's local MP Charlie Elphicke said the motorway blockages were isolating his constituents, as officials urged non-commercial vehicles to avoid the main motorway.

"For the record, the people of Dover are now stranded, completely cut off in their own town," the Conservative lawmaker tweeted.

dt/ar/lm


© 2015 AFP

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