Freight lobby urges France-UK talks to ease port queues

Logistics UK has called on French and British governments to address congested roads leading up to ports on both sides of the Channel, which have been blamed on Brexit.

Lorries wait in Dover to cross the Channel to France.
Lorries wait in Dover to cross the Channel to France. A leading logistics company has asked the French and British governments to hold talks to resolve traffic issues. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)

A leading UK freight lobby group has urged the British and French governments to hold talks to ease miles-long backups at Channel ports that have been blamed on Brexit.

Trucks have faced queues of up to six miles (10 kilometres) this month on the approach to Dover — Europe’s busiest port for roll-on, roll-off freight — with tailbacks also reported in northern France.

A number of factors have been blamed, including the UK government implementing further customs controls at the start of January, a year after the country quit the European Union’s single market and customs union.

Trucks now take longer to pass through Channel ports as their paperwork is verified.

“We’re urging both the French and UK governments to have constructive dialogue to ease the situation,” a spokesperson for Logistics UK, which represents an array of road, rail, sea and air operators, said on Monday.

“How much friction we will see in the system long term remains to be seen.”

The spokesperson added talks were “doubly important” because Britain is planning to implement new sanitary checks and passport control systems later this year, “which will undoubtedly add friction to the border transit and cause delays”.

Britain and the EU have been holding negotiations over post-Brexit issues, but they have been primarily focused on the complex situation in Northern Ireland.

The bottlenecks near Dover in southeast England have increased in recent months, with special traffic measures deployed on around half the days so far in January, including on Tuesday, according to officials.

Photos posted on social media in recent weeks have shown the lengthy lines of lorries parked up on one lane of the A20 dual carriageway approaching the port.

A Port of Dover spokeswoman confirmed officials had implemented the “well-established” traffic tools on its main approach road “on a number of occasions over the past week”.

She blamed the backlogs on “significant freight volumes”, several ferries being out of service for renovation and “external highway works impacting the port’s holding capacity” which come on top of further customs controls introduced on January 1.

A spokeswoman for the port of Calais in northern France, where there have also been reports of long queues, said there was “no problem of fluidity” there on Tuesday.

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‘Book now’ – rental cars set to be scare and expensive in France this summer

Thinking about a French road trip this summer? You'll want to plan in advance, as hire cars are getting harder and harder to find and prices are skyrocketing.

'Book now' - rental cars set to be scare and expensive in France this summer

With life returning to near-normal, pre-Covid conditions, tourism is booming. France is set to be a popular holiday destination this summer – but renting a vehicle could cost you a lot of money. 

Why the price hike?

The quick answer is that demand is high.

At the Bordeaux-Mérignac airport, Michel Reillat, the CEO of rental company Loca’Malin told FranceInfo that “In July and August, there is no possibility of renting cars, since they are all booked.”

He explained that “reservations began very early, from February, with 30 to 40 percent of the cars already rented for the summer.” Reillat said he ordered about fifty additional cars, but even if this will be insufficient to meet the high demand.

However, rising demand is not the only answer.

During the pandemic, several rental companies sold large portions of their stock (up to 40 percent in some cases) to compensate for the loss brought on by Covid-19. This means that many rental companies are currently operating with shortages.

Are prices high everywhere?

Prices have seen the highest increases in places like the Basque coast, the South-West, and Corsica. Biarritz, for instance, where a weekly car rental is now on average €505 per week, has seen its average rates increase by 96 percent, according to car rental comparison website Carigami. 

The website published a list ranking cities based on affordability for car rentals, and it also allows you to compare which parts of the country are the cheapest for renting cars.

Where can I get affordable prices?

Based on the Carigami list, heading North is your best bet to avoid breaking the bank. A week’s rental in Lille will cost you €292 on average, according to the site. Though this still represents an increase from last year, it’s only 12.7 percent (small in comparison to Biarritz).

Two other cities that might allow you to book a vehicle for less than €300 a week are Clermont-Ferrand and Mulhouse.

If you want to go further south, Valence is a good compromise, Aix-en-Provence, and Marseille are better options than Nice (which is averaging at €496 per week). 

Finally, the other cities listed for having “reasonable” pricing are Rennes, Brest, Lyon and Nantes. Even so these cities, Brest in particular, have still seen significant increases from years past.

The other key thing is not to leave it to the last minute, as prices will only rise.