Sunday, December 20, 2009

Channel Tunnel And Ferry Crossing Freight Update

“Hell on Earth” due to Severe Weather
Shipping News Feature

ENGLAND – More chaos for travellers to and from France after Eurostar passenger services suffered more problems with travellers trapped overnight for up to twelve hours. A survey of freight services by the Handy Shipping Guide this morning revealed that for freight vehicles the problems are not with the ports themselves after severe disembarkation problems in France yesterday, nor with services, but with reaching the embarkation ports.

With Operation Stack still in full swing on the M20, trucks are queuing for miles and another problem which is exacerbating the situation is the inability of ferry company staff to get into work. A spokesman from Norfolk Line, Dover said their service was running normally and there were no problems when drivers arrive for the ferries to Dunkerque but that reaching the port was “hell on earth” as companies struggle with a shortage of trained staff and the thousands of car passengers, stranded by the closure of the Channel Tunnel to their vehicles until further notice and the extreme weather conditions throughout Kent and the Pas de Calais.

Eurotunnel issued a recorded statement saying freight services are “beginning to return to normal” and that the main problem freight drivers face is the congestion on the motorway. None of the company’s telephones would respond to calls. It is hard to see that rail freight is being carried normally as all passenger trains today are suspended whilst engineers travel the route to try to alleviate the electrical faults which are plaguing the locomotives electrical circuits, apparently failing due to condensation when the frozen trains enter the warmth of the tunnel.

LD Lines said their services from Dover were running normally and reiterated that the problem was one of access to the port. P & O confirmed the problems estimating several hundred trucks parked on the Motorway with a one mile queue for the docks at Dover. A spokesman for the company said they would try to clear all freight vehicles by tonight but thought that tomorrow morning was probably more likely.

None of the ferry companies will accept tickets booked via the tunnel services as payment for substitute crossings. Any freight drivers planning to ship out in the next 48 hours are advised to contact their carrier and Kent Police. A police spokesman told our reporter that at 04.30 hours Operation Stack was still in place and freight trucks on the A20 had been redirected to the queues on the M20 to allow passenger traffic access to the ports. They also advise that only drivers with essential journeys should attempt to ship out and were not prepared to state the likely length of any delays.

British drivers scheduled to deliver abroad and return before the Christmas break should be careful that they calculate their working hours accordingly.

For a full list of suitable ferry services use the Handy Shipping Guide link