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Delays at Passport Control at Calais


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Last year - both in July and October - we got caught out by horrendous queues for British Passport Control at Calais.    Probably half an hour on each occasion.   The second time we demanded an explanation,   which consisted of the slowness of the new computer scanners and staff watching their backs in the face of public sector cutbacks.

The second time we would have missed our boat,   had that not been delayed itself,  but that's another story.

Both occasions were at about 19.30 CET midweek,   were we just unlucky or do we now have to leave yet more temporal leeway for safety.?   We're already expected to turn up one hour before sailing as we have a cat on board.

Any current experiences would be appreciated.

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Surprising! At East Midlands I just go throught the automatic, electronic, unmanned , gate; takes 15 seconds with my chipped passport.

Couldnt be quicker.

Ryan Air still haven't ironed the bugs out of the iPhone on board immigration control yet.

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Sounds as though we've been very unlucky then.    Certainly the scanners at Calais have been very slow the times we've been through.

You wouldn't think that Tues or Wed in early July or late October would be peaks,  but then one never knows,  does one....

Thanks anyway.

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I have been thorugh several times recently both the port of Calais and the Eurotunnel terminal without delay, although thinking about it there should never be a delay at Cocquelles, I have in the past been held up by a sort of work to rule that you described.

I am pretty sure that at Dover you pass through both English and French border controls, although it could have been at Calais, in this instance there would normally be no delay at the disembarquement. I do recall that I am always waved through without any checking when I hold up a UK passport.

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[quote user="Martin963"]Sounds as though we've been very unlucky then.    Certainly the scanners at Calais have been very slow the times we've been through.

You wouldn't think that Tues or Wed in early July or late October would be peaks,  but then one never knows,  does one....

Thanks anyway.
[/quote]

Well Martin, if you took  the Niqab off it might speed the process up a little? [:D]

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[quote user="Martin963"]Sounds as though we've been very unlucky then.    Certainly the scanners at Calais have been very slow the times we've been through.

You wouldn't think that Tues or Wed in early July or late October would be peaks,  but then one never knows,  does one....

Thanks anyway.
[/quote]

Must be the speed of the dial_up connection to the foreign and commune weath office server.

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  • 2 weeks later...
I've just realised that we were planning to pas through Calais on the way home next Tuesday and - of course - it's the day of the strikes in Britain.

Methinks that Passport Control are probably on nodding terms with "Unison" - does anyone know if there's likely to be a problem?

Laters - maybe we've got the day wrong - might be 30th for the strike.

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I have to go back for a cremation, its one of the rare times that I have booked a return trip with the intention of actually using the return leg, I knew nothing of the strikes and am also returning on Wed 29th.

What are the strikes about?  Does  anyone in the UK these days actually have the get up and go to strike?

I recall hearing during the BA cabin crew dispute that the union was paying the strikers lost wages and only had enough reserves for a couple more days, dont know if it was true or not, you hear a lot of conneries beside snack wagons, how did that dispute end?

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Seems the sort of delays we've experienced are nothing unusual.    Yesterday - at 18.45 CET - we waited 20 minutes.   Just two booths open,  although a third one opened at 19.00.

We politely challenged a rather flustered-looking passport checker who rounded on us and  more or less yelled at us "Well write to your MP then,  25% cuts mate".   We had politely (again) asked if there was a less busy time,   he thought three o'clock in the morning might be good.

So I'm going to find who to complain to,   because to my way of thinking these delays are unacceptable and the ferry companies should be at least warning passengers to allow half an hour to clear passport control,  and at most should be campaigning to get this sorted out.

On board I chatted to a check out guy in duty free,   he and his family had been held up for an hour and a half by passport control a couple of weeks earlier.

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Ah yes, Public "Service" sector employees! Mr and Mrs Grumpy greet you with a frown. [:@]

Wow, that feels better.

Oh yes, to asnwer your query as to why they're striking - it's to preserve the pensions which we contribute to (along with their salaries), so a bit of service wouldn't actually go amiss.

Yes, that's much better. [8-|]

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Arriving by car at Hook of Holland 30 years ago I mentioned (pleasantly) to the Passport Control officer that it had been a bit slow clearing immigration today.  He had a sense of humour failure and directed me to park in an adjacent layby, where I had to wait until every last vehicle had been cleared: I then had to show every conceivable piece of documentation this chap could think of.  Delay - about 2 hours.

Moral of the story is don't upset Passport Control or Customs people - they have plenty of ways to get their own back.......

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[quote user="Martin963"]Seems the sort of delays we've experienced are nothing unusual.    Yesterday - at 18.45 CET - we waited 20 minutes.   Just two booths open,  although a third one opened at 19.00.

We politely challenged a rather flustered-looking passport checker who rounded on us and  more or less yelled at us "Well write to your MP then,  25% cuts mate".   We had politely (again) asked if there was a less busy time,   he thought three o'clock in the morning might be good.

So I'm going to find who to complain to,   because to my way of thinking these delays are unacceptable and the ferry companies should be at least warning passengers to allow half an hour to clear passport control,  and at most should be campaigning to get this sorted out.

On board I chatted to a check out guy in duty free,   he and his family had been held up for an hour and a half by passport control a couple of weeks earlier.
[/quote]

 

So let me see,

 

1.  You caught the ferry you were going to catch anyway?

2.  That means you would have been waiting somewhere else for 20 mintues befroe the ferry set off

3.  You wasted the time of the passport controller asking him about why there were delays instead of letting him get on with his job of checking the passport.

4.  This will have delayed those behind you even more.

 

Your precious "lost" 20 minutes represents around one two millionth of your anticipated life.

 

If it seems that I seem a tad unsypathetic - it's because I am!

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Thanks for that very helpful post.   I'm sure I and everyone else appreciate what you wrote.

In fact my concern (subsequently confirmed) that the queues would be long led me to abandon the plan to fill up with diesel on the outskirts of Calais.    Had we done so we probably would have missed our boat.   So we had to fill up in Dover - result paying £1.39 per litre - instead of €1.30 ( = £1.17).    50 litres x £0.22 = £11 difference.

Maybe that's peanuts to you.   Bully for you if so.   Maybe I could send you the bill.

Really I despair that anyone can be so utterly negative on this forum.

But then you're not the only one are you.

Is it really so wrong for me to highlight the fact that ten years ago one could pretty much sweep through Passport Control,   and yet now it takes much longer?   Certainly last October we talked to other cars in the queue who DID miss their boats.   Is it so bad to highlight the problem here in order to help others?

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Martin, I think that you were cutting a bit fine. Our journey was a slightly longer distance to the coast, you say you are in the Perigord, and it has taken us variable times to get there. I always want to be in Calais about 2 hours before we are due to sail, which unless there were big and obvious queues we would go straight to the Carrefour pumps and fill up.
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idun - you do of course have a point.

I suppose that what I'm trying to flag up is that in comparison with even a few years ago there seems to be a problem at Passport Control now (certainly in the recent past we've been told that the scanning process takes far longer than was intended when it was designed) and that therefore people should allow much longer than the half hour check-in that is required by the ferry companies (or at least by P&O).

As in our case we have considerably further to travel once back in England it makes for a long day of travel,   and my "gripe" is that something that should be simple and quick (and indeed used to be in the main) has added considerably to the leeway one now needs to leave.

It is at least a consolation that P&O are again (as they used to be in the old days) fairly flexible about which boat one actually ends up travelling on.

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Our journey was in total around 1000 miles from SE France to NE England. So yes,[:)] we too had a long journey on the UK side. When heading west though, we would usually take Le Havre/Portsmouth on the midnight ferry, I have no idea if this still runs as sadly the people we used to go and see were old and have died.

We used to allow at least 12 hours to get to Calais in the old days and would continue using that plan if we knew there were major road works, strikes, as we'd need alternative routes, or bad weather, including autumn where fog could be a real problem especially in the north of France.

The other thing we started to do was get to Calais the previous night, so in fact if we got held up still had our Etap Hotel or whatever there for us and then get up early and catch the ferry at a more reasonable hour the next day, depending on prices. At least we knew we were sur place. We had to do that, for as we got older we did feel the need, no, necessity to split the journey. For us returning home  to France meant getting as far as Reims the first day and then home the second. Only once have we done it in one and that was about 6 years ago and that was returning to France. Hit no road works, hold ups then the traffic around London was sparse, were at Dover way too early, caught an early ferry and an equally smooth run down through France.

And I too would be annoyed if passport control was taking too long and would write to my MP about it. Even if living in France permanently UK citizens can still vote in UK general elections for 15 years(?) so many will still have an MP.

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 Friends of ours travelled back to the UK yesterday via Calais and found no delays at all. We use the tunnel about a dozen times a year and as someone else said travel midweek and there are no problems. Also don't blame the customs people for all the delays,  blame should be directed at the terrorist organisations that now make travel difficult. I  spent all my working life travelling and now I only travel for pleasure, so I'm the first to agree that a lot of customs people are jobs worth, but they are only doing what the regulations tell them to do, over the years the regulations have  got stronger so unfortunately the delays increase. Live with the fact and get there early.
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I always cut it fine and try to arrive just before last check in time, they generally allow you through after that and as I travel alone I usually also get pulled over by the Douanes/Customs for a quick shuffti, I once drove onto Speedone as they were raising the ramp and the boat was under way before I had even parked, 5 minutes before scheduled sailing time! How I miss Speedferries.

I have found recently the biggest queues to be at the check in booths, P&O and Seafrance usually have enough operators to cope during the run up to embarquement but this week I did a return trip with Norfolklines (good price too) both departures around mid-day and in both Dunquerque and Dover there were nowhere near enough operators for the vehicles queuing and it was touch and go each time, it was especially evident at Dover where there were little or no queues at the P&O and Seafrance booths but it could have been a lull between their sailings.

I only have a total journey of 190 - 200 miles dependant on which port I use but despite running very late this time and not having a second to spare my journey still took me 7 hours door to door using the autoroutes and this was not a slow night crossing, on the tunnel I can shave 3 hours of of that, Speedferries was not a lot longer as the embarquement was so rapid. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

We once had a nightmare getting though the control as they were working to rule. This was via Eurotunnel and we were told that a number of people had missed their Shuttle, no doubt in association to them not leaving the 'shop' until late.

Seems a good idea that you now pass through the controls BEFORE getting to the 'shop'

 

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