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News Item: Freight lobby urges UK-France talks to ease port queues

A leading UK freight lobby group has urged the British and French governments to hold talks to ease miles-long backups at Channel ports that some have blamed on Brexit.

Trucks have faced queues of up to six miles (10 kilometres) this month on the approach to Dover — Europe’s busiest port for roll-on, roll-off freight — with tailbacks also reported in northern France.

The delays has been attributed to several factors, including the UK government implementing further customs controls at the start of January, a year after the country quit the European Union’s single market and customs union.

Trucks now take longer to pass through Channel ports as their paperwork is verified.

“We’re urging both the French and UK governments to have constructive dialogue to ease the situation,” a spokesperson for Logistics UK, which represents an array of road, rail, sea and air operators, said on Monday.

“How much friction we will see in the system long term remains to be seen.”

The spokesperson added talks were “doubly important” because Britain is planning to implement new sanitary checks and passport control systems later this year, “which will undoubtedly add friction to the border transit and cause delays”.

Britain and the EU have been holding negotiations over post-Brexit issues, but they have been primarily focused on the complex situation in Northern Ireland.

However, a British government source told AFP that cross-Channel cooperation on implementing customs controls was very good, and the two sides were already in regular contact.


– ‘Working as planned’ –


But bottlenecks near Dover in southeast England have increased in recent months, with special traffic measures deployed on around half the days so far in January, including on Tuesday, according to transport officials.

Photos posted on social media in recent weeks have shown the lengthy lines of lorries parked up on one lane of the A20 two lane arterial road approaching the port.

A Port of Dover spokeswoman blamed the backlogs on “significant freight volumes” and several ferries being out of service for renovations.

She also noted “external highway works impacting the port’s holding capacity”, which come on top of further customs controls introduced on January 1.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the port of Calais in northern France, where there have also been reports of long queues, said there was “no problem of fluidity” there on Tuesday.

A UK government spokesman insisted the Dover freight delays have been “short” and not caused by the new customs processes.

Instead, he pinpointed the renovations of vessels and “higher than expected freight volumes”.

The new systems were “working as planned”, the spokesman said.

“Indications since 1 January are that traders and hauliers are adapting very well to the new processes,” he added.