Cross channel travel safety: Should GTOs be worried?

Date Posted: 29/07/2015

What does the migrant crisis mean for group travel this summer?

Cross channel travel is under scrutiny at the moment. Newspaper headlines and TV and radio news bulletins are filled with stories of migrants storming the Eurotunnel and attempting to break through security fences.

Prime Minister David Cameron has commented on the situation – which is being referred to in the media as a crisis – saying what’s happening is “very concerning” and affirming that the Government will do “everything it can to improve the situation”.

But what does this mean for group travel?

The Foreign Office is warning of an ‘ongoing possibility of disruption’ to cross-channel services. And advising that all passengers travelling from Dover or Folkestone to Calais should check with their operator before travelling. 

Over the past few days Eurotunnel has announced varied disruptions to services, but nothing more significant than an hour or two delay.

Eurotunnel spokesman John Keefe has announced that the crisis was affecting freight services rather than passenger services and that migrants were not getting “anywhere near” the tunnel itself.

P&O Ferries are reporting a similar stance. On 28th July Janette Bell, the commercial director for P&O ferries said: “We are aware of the Foreign Office advice that cross-channel customers should check with their operator before travelling and would like to make clear that the port of Calais is at present safe and open for business.”

“P&O Ferries’ customers at the port of Calais have thankfully not been affected by the well-publicised problems which we have seen at Eurotunnel. Traffic on the slip roads can access the port freely, cars and lorries queue safely and efficiently in a secure area, and there is no point at which illegal migrants come into contact with our passengers.”

“We would like to reassure all tourist and freight customers travelling to the continent that P&O Ferries' services will make 58 sailings today to or from Calais and that the port is safe. If the situation were to change for any reason, we would of course inform them immediately.”

The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), the trade association representing the UK’s bus and coach industry, reports that its members have not been reporting any significant disruptions to their trips.

“We have not been inundated with calls from our members about the ongoing situation at Calais and from what we have picked up, members are not experiencing excessive delays on their journeys,” said Pauline Gaunt from the CPT. “There will have been isolated incidents no doubt but on the whole it seems that coaches are managing to get across the Channel relatively easily.”

Navigating the M20 during the migrant crisis

On the M20 – the main route to Dover - Kent Police have put Operation Stack into effect, which closes the motorway at different times of the day to ease congestion.

“Coaches are classed as non-freight traffic,” said Steve Knight from Kent Police. “Coaches should do the same as cars during Operation Stack, which is find an alternative route to the port. That involves getting off at Junction 8 and going on the A20.”

How to keep updated

Check with your coach operator before your trip to see what their stance is on travel to Calais.

Keep up to date with the latest foreign office advice at www.gov.uk/government/news/calais-situation-information-and-advice.

Members of the CPT can sign up to regular bulletins containing advice on the situation.

Eurotunnel passengers can get the latest updates through Twitter @LeShuttle.

Get the latest updates on Operation Stack from Kent Police on Twitter @kent_police.

Industry comments

We spoke to some of the UK's top coach operators for their comments on the current crisis in Calais.

"Harry Shaw are doing everything possible to ensure that any disruption to travel plans is minimised. We are advising clients that there may be delays in reaching the channel ports and The Eurotunnel. It seems like this situation will continue into the foreseeable future." Robert Shaw, Harry Shaw Travel

"Providing these disturbances do not escalate further then I fully expect our groups to continue planning and booking their ‘cross Channel’ tours and if anything forward sales are increasing at the moment for 2016. The current situation is of course disconcerting but fortunately it has had minimal  impact on our current schedules and we remain hopeful that services will get back to normal in the near future." Harold Burke, just for groups! The UK Holiday Group

Image credit: VisitEngland/Alex Hare

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