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Lorry driver stuck waiting in Calais speaks of 15-mile queues and six-hour delays

A haulier from Sittingbourne making a twice-weekly trip to Belgium said fifteen-mile queues for lorries waiting to board ferries to Kent spell looming disaster in the new year.

Mike Sellar, owner of M A S Car & Commercial on the Eurolink Industrial Estate, took up part-time haulage work as a way of making ends meet as business slowed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lorries queueing at Calais to get to the UK

For six months he was able to complete the trip in a single 15-hour shift, but with TAP routinely in force on the A20 and a higher number of vehicles travelling to the port, one trip is now taking him nearly three working days.

Speaking to KentOnline whilst waiting to return to Kent, the 55-year-old said the county's roads are getting increasingly worse as the Brexit transition period nears.

Mike always leaves Sittingbourne just after midnight for the 2am ferry, but today's early morning journey onto the boat took six hours.

He said: "The last two months I'm lucky if I get on the 4am ferry, the 2am ferry is already full. That was the first sign of problems late November, that the traffic across the water is increasing.

Mike fears trips will not be viable in the new year if delays continue
Mike fears trips will not be viable in the new year if delays continue

"Last night was the worst night so far, I got halfway down Jubilee Way to form a queue into the port. That's the worst it's been for years - last time it was that bad was because of searches due to clandestines getting on the lorries."

When Mike eventually got to the port he was told the the 4am ferry was full and would have to wait for the 6am, which was also 40 minutes late.

He said: "I can't see me getting back to the port before 5pm, and then I'll have to have a nine-hour break because I'll be over my hours, then I'll have to catch a ferry early Saturday morning.

"So one job turns into nearly three days with the ferry delays."

With driver hours recorded on a tachograph and routinely checked by bodies such as the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), drivers like Mike have no choice but to accept the delays and the extra time spent waiting just to cross the water either side.

Lorries queue at the Eurotunnel terminal. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Lorries queue at the Eurotunnel terminal. Picture: Barry Goodwin

But the state of the roads in Kent pale in comparison to Calais.

Earlier this week Mike drove past 15 miles of lorries queueing towards the French port en route to Kent.

He said: "Calais is far worse than Dover, but last night was the first time I've experienced serious problems in Dover."

Although he originally took up the work to raise some extra cash, Mike is not sure how he can operate in the new year if delays continue on both sides of the Channel.

He said: "I can't see anyone making any money going abroad when there's six-hour delays to catch a ferry.

"Calais is far worse than Dover..."

"Because no-one is paying that driver for those six hours whilst he sits there and waits, he's getting paid a rate per load.

"Drivers are away for sometime 20-25 hours on what should take 12 to 15 hours, and it's through no fault of their own."

Mike has also noticed a significant increase in vehicles being stopped and searched.

Earlier in the year his vehicle might be spot-searched one in 10 times, but in the past month it has been around one in three trips.

He said: "The French and English have increased their search procedures, so tailbacks are caused because there's far more searching than there has ever been before."

Lorries could continue to park in 'unsuitable' places if there are not enough designated areas available. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Lorries could continue to park in 'unsuitable' places if there are not enough designated areas available. Picture: Barry Goodwin

Fears that Kent's roads are heading for traffic chaos have been steadily growing in the past few months.

Earlier this week a logistics expert urged the public not to blame hauliers for using lay-bys and parking on roads across Kent.

Mike is concerned the new year will spell chaos with lorries parked up waiting to join queues to the port.

And with the lorry park at Sevington under construction until the end of February, there could be scores of hauliers forced to park up wherever they can find.

He said: "It's going to be disastrous, and not only that but we don't offer any facilities - what you'll find at weekends is that they're parked all over the industrial areas, and because there's no facilities for anyone, where can they go to the toilet?

"On our estate at Eurolink on a Monday morning there are bags of faeces everywhere - they've got nowhere to put it.

"Part of you says 'that's disgusting' and the other part of you says 'what else can they do?'"

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