Channel Tunnel boss issues warning over Kent travel
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The EU is preparing to introduce its new entry system which will require non-EU citizens to have four fingerprints scanned and a photograph taken. It is likely to have the biggest impact on British tourists heading to France by ferry, Eurostar or Channel Tunnel.
The Entry/Exit System (EES) is due to launch in May and will monitor non-EU citizens entering the bloc.
Experts say the new EES infrastructure is likely to cause chaos and lengthy queues at border control.
Tim Reardon, Head of EU Exit for the Dover Harbour Board, said: “In our context, virtually everybody crosses the border in a vehicle and in a group.
“There is no such thing as an e-gate for a car, and there is no such thing as an e-gate process for people travellling as a group. They’re all one at a time processes.”
The experts said the new rules appeared to have been designed for airports rather than land crossings.
Airports should be able to handle the new rules relatively easily as passengers already pass through immigration on foot individually.
Reardon told the House of Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee: “There is no way of doing a biometric control without getting everyone out of the vehicle.
“That’s the one thing on our site which cannot happen because you’re in the middle of live traffic.
“It would be equivalent to asking people to get out of their car at a motorway toll booth. It’s fundamentally unsafe and it can’t happen.”
John Keefe, director of public affairs for Getlink, said: “Any disruption to the French inbound control has an immediate knock-on effect in traffic in minutes.”
Getlink operates the Eurotunnel between Folkestone and Calais. Before the pandemic the tunnel welcomed 11 million passengers per year.
“We would be looking at 1,600 to 1,700 passengers per hour to be processed for the first time.
“That’s an impossible task in the space that we have available. The risk of congestion to our motorways, to the M20, the A20, the A2.
“Once all those areas are congested, Kent becomes impassable.” French immigration is carried out on the British side of the Channel crossing.
Keefe said that while HGV drivers have an established process when queues to the continent are long, recreational drivers could cause chaos.
He said: “Managing passenger vehicles, individual consumers when they have an imperative, ‘We must get there’, is a completely different kettle of fish.
“They disobey rules quite happily and will leave the motorway and will look for alternative routes which they’ll then congest, and we’ll very quickly have a very widespread issue in Kent.”
Eurostar also warned of issues to come for passengers using their routes to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam.
Gareth Williams, Eurostar’s strategy director, said: “This is coming at us fast, in a very undeveloped way.
“We don’t currently see a practical solution. If we take the peak of August, up to 80 percent of people will have to go through the system.
“In a peak hour in August we have 1,800 passengers. About 1,500 of those would be required to go through the EES, of whom 830 of those would be first-time travellers.”
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