Queuing for half a day or more could become the reality for Brits making their way to holidays through new European Union border controls, according to evidence presented to a UK parliamentary committee.
Ashford, Dover and the southern UK county of Kent where trains, shuttles and ferries leave for France, sent Borough Council officials and local representatives to speak to the UK parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee.
The EU is introducing a new Entry Exit System (EES) later this year and a new visa waiver system is set to follow in 2025. Entering the EU will only be allowed once visitors from the UK have registered biometric data such as their fingerprints, as well as a photograph and their passport.
The new systems have seen several delays and postponements, which may have lulled some into a false sense of complacency around the problems that lie ahead.
Giving people time to undertake the necessary steps and officials time to make the necessary checks could mean that delays of up to 14 hours become a “reasonable worst case scenario” said Ashford Borough Council staff. They also pointed out that heavy congestion on major routes such as the A20 and M20, could prevent staff and tourist traffic from accessing Eurotunnel facilities in Folkestone.
Delays have already been seen over recent years and the lack of basic hygiene infrastructure and refreshments to cater for those caught up in problems on motorways and side roads, has resulted in locals complaining about the countryside being used as a toilet.
Tourist board Visit Kent warned that such long delays would in turn affect local businesses, as seen before during periods of travel chaos.
Meanwhile Eurostar officials addressing the committee foresaw delays of up to an hour during peak times. UK high-speed rail operator High Speed 1, noted that without online pre-registration there would be “enormous pressure on infrastructure at St Pancras International”.
The European Scrutiny Committee Chairman, Sir Bill Cash, described the evidence presented as “an alarming picture of the possible risks surrounding the Entry-Exit System’s implementation”.
While a spokesperson for the UK government failed to recognise the possibility of such long delays, Cash took an emotive tone: “I implore decision makers on both sides of the Channel to take note of this evidence,” he said, adding “The scheme is due to be implemented in October this year; the clock is ticking, and these issues must be urgently addressed.”