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Hauliers queue for hours on the M20 thanks to traffic jams in Dover

Dash to get into France before ban on Brits started at midnight causes a huge tailback of hundreds of trucks outside Dover

  • There were lengthy tailbacks of lorries on the M20 motorway in Kent heading towards Dover on Saturday
  • Hauliers have been forced to queue for hours on M20 after France introduced a ban on UK tourists on Friday
  • People have been heading to Dover in a bid to beat the ban, which was brought it due to spread of Omicron 
  • Hauliers are exempt from the rules but freight lorries have gotten stuck in enormous traffic queues in Dover

Hauliers have been forced to queue for hours on the M20 after passengers have been heading to Dover to try and beat France’s new ban on UK tourists. 

Freight lorries were stuck in lengthy tailbacks on the M20 motorway in Kent heading towards Dover and at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel on Saturday, photographs showed.

It followed queues at the Port of Dover a day earlier after many people brought their Christmas travel plans forward to avoid new restrictions imposed by France, which came into force at 11pm on Friday due to the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant. 

Yesterday’s rush in travel as people desperately tried to beat President Macron’s ban has led to a build-up of freight lorries trying to head through the Channel Tunnel on Saturday. 

Under the new restrictions, UK citizens need a ‘compelling reason’ to enter France, with trips for tourism or business banned.

Hauliers, transport workers and French nationals are exempt from the new rules, but freight lorries were still affected by the enormous queues of traffic heading towards Dover on Saturday, following Friday’s last-minute rush.

Hauliers have been forced to queue for hours on the M20 (pictured) as passengers travelling to France try to beat the country’s new ban on UK tourists

There were length tailbacks on the M20 motorway in Kent heading towards Dover and at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel on Saturday, photographs showed

It comes as passengers are desperately trying to beat President Macron’s ban on UK tourists entering France, which has come into force due to the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant. Pictured: Freight lorries queuing at the port of Dover in Kent

UK citizens now need a ‘compelling reason’ to enter France, with trips for tourism or business banned. Pictured: Freight lorries queuing on the M20 motorway in Kent heading to Dover (left) and at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel (right)

It was hoped freight traffic queues would clear by Saturday afternoon. 

The Dover TAP, a temporary traffic system to prevent a build up in lorry traffic, has also been brought in amid tailbacks on the motorways.

The TAP sees a 40mph speed restriction for all vehicles approaching the port brought in, port-bound lorries are required to queue on the nearside to prevent congestion and traffic lights hold back lorries until there is space at the Port of Dover.

The A20 coast-bound has also been closed for local and tourist traffic between the M20 junction 13 and the A260, KentOnline reported.

A spokeswoman for Eurotunnel said: ‘Congestion in Dover overnight and on the A20 into Dover this morning has led to a transfer of freight traffic to Eurotunnel.

‘There is currently slow-moving traffic on the approach to J11A (Eurotunnel exit) on M20, but freight is flowing through the tunnel at normal rates and so this will disappear in the coming hours.’

Freight lorries queuing on the M20 motorway in Kent heading to Dover on Saturday, while domestic vehicles drive past them

Passengers waiting for a ferry at the port of Dover in Kent, after France brought in strict rules banning UK tourists amid Omicron fears

Hauliers, transport workers and French nationals are exempt from the new rules, but freight lorries (pictured at the port of Dover) were still stuck in the enormous traffic queues heading towards Dover on Saturday

It was hoped freight traffic queues would clear by Saturday afternoon. Pictured: Freight lorries queuing on the M20 motorway in Kent heading to Dover (centre) and at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel (right)

The Dover TAP, a temporary traffic system to prevent heavy lorry queues, has also been brought in amid tailbacks on the motorways. Pictured: Freight lorries queuing on the M20 in Kent (right) and at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel (left)

A spokeswoman for Eurotunnel said that congestion in Dover has ‘led to a transfer of freight traffic to Eurotunnel’. Pictured: Freight lorries queuing on the M20 on Saturday

She said all passengers who wanted to get to France through the Channel Tunnel before the deadline had been able to do so. 

The heavy traffic comes after President Emmanuelle Macron introduced new rules in France to sharply restrict travel to and from Britain, with only those with ‘compelling reasons’ able to enter.

Following the move, flights, trains and ferries to France on Friday sold out within hours as travellers made desperate attempts to get to the country before the new ban came into force at 11pm on Friday.

Eurostar reported a rise in bookings on Friday and the aviation analytics company Cirium, said there were 540 flights scheduled between the UK and France before Christmas Day.

Meanwhile, Cross-Channel ferry operators said they too had experienced a surge in bookings from travellers.

Londoner Derek Lubne, who made it to Paris on Thursday just ahead of the deadline, said: ‘It’s crazy. (Omicron) is already spreading in France.

‘I mean I understand they need to protect the people but it’s here. What can you do? And it’s gonna hurt people. It hurts people, it hurts tourists, it hurts your local businesses.’

Speaking on the ban French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on BFM television that tourism and business travel to and from Britain will be strongly curtailed, and all those arriving from Britain will need to have a negative virus test less than 24 hours old. 

The Dover TAP sees port-bound lorries are required to queue on the nearside to prevent congestion and traffic lights hold back lorries until there is space at the Port of Dover. Pictured: Freight lorries queuing on the M20 on Saturday

Queues of cars were held up at the port of Dover in Kent on Saturday as there were tailbacks on the M20

The A20 coast-bound has also been closed for local and tourist traffic between the M20 junction 13 and the A260. Pictured: Freight lorries queuing on the M20 motorway in Kent

They will also need to test again upon arrival and isolate ‘in a place they choose’ for at least 48 hours pending the result.

The new measures will take effect first thing Saturday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said in a statement.

They will apply to vaccinated travellers as well those not vaccinated. 

Macron’s government singled out the UK for the ban on non-essential travel, claiming it is designed to slow the arrival of the super-mutant Omicron variant.

However the travel industry and experts point out that Omicron is already well established there – and even makes up a higher proportion of French cases according to the latest available data.

Boris Johnson today slammed France for banning British tourists from the country starting on Saturday over fears of the Omicron variant.

France has given boosters to only 16.7 million people and hopes to give a third dose to 20 million by Christmas. That is behind the UK, which has already surpassed 24 million booster jabs.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said the government did not think travel bans were a ‘effective or proportionate’ response to Omicron.

He said: ‘On our part given the given the transmissibility of Omicron and its seeding around the world, we don’t think that Red Lists are effective or proportionate at this current time.’ 

A rush of passengers travelling to France trying to beat the country’s ban on UK tourists has led to a knock-on effect on freight traffic, resulting in long queues of lorries

Passengers waiting for a ferry at the port of Dover in Kent, after France’s ban on UK tourists came into force on Friday

Freight lorries queuing at the port of Dover in Kent, as traffic management systems were brought in to ease the build up 

The move comes after weeks of political tensions between France and Britain over post-Brexit fishing rights and how to deal with migrants crossing the English Channel. 

It also comes as France’s government is desperately trying to avoid a new lockdown or stricter measures that would hurt the economy and cloud President Macron’s expected campaign for the April presidential election.

France’s daily Covid cases are already soaring after the arrival of Omicron and are approaching the same level per million as in the UK.

Omicron is also widespread across many European countries including Denmark, which has not been included in the French travel ban. 

Conservative MP for Dover Natalie Elphicke told MailOnline the French action was causing ‘unnecessary’ misery for travellers. 

‘We have seen again France acting in a different way to other European countries. That is going to cause unnecessary disruption this Christmas time,’ she said.

‘We saw France do this last Christmas. It is obviously welcome they seem to be allowing haulage to travel… but clearly this is going to be difficult for passengers trying to return to their homes for Christmas or go abroad at this time of year.’

And spokesman for ferry operator Brittany Ferries said: ‘These new measures are a hammer blow to our Christmas season.

Freight lorries, heading to Dover, queuing on the M20 motorway in Kent at junction 11A – the Channel Tunnel Terminal

Freight lorries queuing on the M20 motorway in Kent heading to Dover (centre) and at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel (right)

Freight lorries queuing on the M20 motorway in Kent heading to Dover after a rush of passengers travelling to France to beat the country’s ban on UK tourists has led to a knock-on effect on freight traffic

Massive queues of freight lorries were seen building up at the port of Dover in Kent on Saturday

A rush of passengers attempting to travel to France to beat the country’s ban on UK tourists has led to a knock-on effect on freight traffic, resulting in long queues of lorries (pictured)

‘In the context of an Omicron variant that is passing through the French population as it is in the UK, further border controls seem as unnecessary as they are unwelcome.’ 

The PM’s spokesman said the government does not think travel bans are a ‘effective or proportionate’ response to Omicron.

Asked whether Macron should think again, the spokesman said: ‘I think at all stages it’s been down to countries to consider what approach is right for them.’

‘Certainly on our part given the given the transmissibility of Omicron and its seeding around the world, we don’t think that Red Lists are effective or proportionate at this current time.’

A French government spokesman confirmed there will be a ‘requirement to have an essential reason to travel to, or come from, the UK, both for the unvaccinated and vaccinated’.

He added: ‘People cannot travel for touristic or professional reasons.’

They insisted French citizens and EU nationals could still return to France from the UK. 

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