UK truck drivers report 20 mile queue to Dover

A ferry of the trans-Channel ferry company P&O docks at the Port of Dover, as EU countries impose a travel ban from the UK following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Dover, Britain, December 22, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra

LONDON, April 8 (Reuters) - More than 2,000 trucks have been stuck in a queue of more than 20 miles to get to the British port of Dover, the main route for road freight to mainland Europe, due to disruption to ferry services and customs operations, hauliers said on Friday.

P&O Ferries, which previously accounted for a third of capacity at Dover, suspended operations last month after an attempt to replace 800 staff with lower-paid workers led to criminal and civil probes from UK authorities.

Other ferry companies now say they have no spare capacity until Monday due to demand from holidaymakers ahead of Easter.

On top of this, a government customs website which provides documentation needed since Brexit has been suffering technical problems, requiring alternative document checks.

"Alongside the beginning of the Easter holidays and smaller-scale incidents throughout the transport network, it has created a queue ... in excess of 20 miles and around 2,000 lorries," Britain's Road Haulage Association said.

England's highways agency closed a 24-mile (39 km) stretch of motorway leading up to the port to manage the traffic.

The disruption drew complaints from Spain's main haulage association, Fenadismer, which said the delays resembled disruption in December 2020, when France ramped up COVID checks on cross-Channel traffic.

"Drivers have to remain trapped inside the trucks, without being able to access adequate resting places or minimum hygienic and sanitary conditions," the Spanish haulage body said.

The European Commission should put pressure on Britain to resolve the delays, it added.

Goods trade between Britain and the European Union fell sharply in January 2021, when post-Brexit trade customs arrangements first took effect. Trade is now roughly back around pre-Brexit levels, but has lagged behind an increase in trade with countries outside the EU.

Reporting by David Milliken; additional reporting by Emma Pinedo in Madrid

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