Tears and tempers as Britons finally make it home

20th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

The sunlit White Cliffs of Dover were a welcome sight for thousands of stranded travellers as they finally staggered into Britain on Tuesday after tearful and costly journeys.

But the famous cliffs -- a symbol of homecoming for generations of Britons returning from continental Europe -- also were the backdrop to an outpouring of anger after nightmare trips from around the world.

"We've been ripped off the whole way through," said Joanne Rickless after stepping back on to British soil with husband Steven and two children, five days after they had hoped to get a simple flight back from Eilat in Israel.

"I'm just angry, angry," the charity worker told AFP at Dover Priory station, where they had to fork out another 60 pounds (69 euros, 92 dollars) on train tickets to add to the estimated 1,500 pounds it has cost them to get home.

First their hotel in Eilat charged them 300 pounds a day to stay on, before they managed to scramble on a flight to Marseille in southern France, where they hired a car for 170 pounds for the nine-hour drive to Calais.

"No-one seems to care that there's thousands of people stranded. The British government isn't really doing anything.... There's thousands of people stranded around the world and something's got to be done."

Inside the port, some people decked out their cars with the British flag to welcome home friends and relatives. National television networks offered cash for home movie footage of people's misery.

Students Kate Hodkinson, 20, and Fran McDaniel, 19, were on a 90-pounds return cheap holiday to northeastern Spain -- which turned into a draining, 500-euro (437 pounds) four-day journey across Europe.

They got a lift to the French border where they took a train to Paris as all the buses were fully booked. "Cheap on the way out, expensive on the way in, and stressful," Hodkinson surmised.

Seeing the White Cliffs was "an immense relief and a weight off our shoulders.

"It's been an experience. Our parents are really proud of us, how we've coped. Some English people adopted us and took us with them and were really helpful. The community spirit has been really comforting.

"Phone calls to parents have been a bit emotional, hearing their voices and knowing we can't get home."

McDaniel added: "Our parents have had to keep putting money into our accounts. I've had to dip into my rent for university, so I can't even pay my rent now."

Luca Solca, an Italian equity analyst, was at the port heading the other way. He was meant to fly to Seattle, but is instead driving his wife back to Milan in a hire car before getting a taxi to Rome, then a flight to New York changing in Madrid, before flying on to the US west coast.

"It's as simple as that!" he said.

"If you travel a lot you will find situations like these. There's nothing you can do except adapt.

"It will take 36 hours instead of 11. I hope I can sleep on the plane. I trust the authorities for the ban. Safety first. I want to get to the west coast but I want to get there in one piece."

P and O ferries, who handle 60 percent of Port of Dover traffic, have got five ferries and two freight ships sailing across the Channel round the clock.

Normally in April they carry a few hundred foot passengers per day, but they have transported 21,500 since Thursday, which exceeds their normal August public holiday peak.

"A lot of people are making very, very long journeys, they are very tired when they reach the port and they're just very pleased to be getting on the ship and getting home," said P and O spokeswoman Michelle Ulyatt.

© 2010 AFP

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