Doug Bannister, the chief of Port of Dover, has put forth a proposal to reclaim some land to expand the Port’s capacity to process passengers smoothly. This step has been considered to avoid expected congestion due to a new system, the Entry Exit Scheme (EES), that could potentially cause long wait lines. Although originally planned for release in 2022, the EES has now been postponed to autumn 2024.
With the implementation of this new system, individuals intending to enter the European Union will be mandated to provide their fingerprints and a photograph, alongside their passport. This requirement could increase the processing time at border controls, leading to possible bottlenecks, particularly for non-EU citizens.
Over previous years, Port of Dover has intermittently experienced heavy queues during peak times, a situation exacerbated following the introduction of post-Brexit checks. However, Mr. Bannister assured that feasible measures have been taken to mitigate these delays, with the port experiencing no severe issues this summer, despite traffic numbers nearly equalling pre-pandemic levels.
Mr. Bannister revealed intentions to hasten existing plans to repurpose land in the port’s western docks, previously designated for cargo use, to accommodate passengers during the launch of the EES system. This rapid enhancement would require an additional £2m in funding to finalise the design by year end and commence work by springtime. The port authorities anticipate government participation in meeting these costs, considering the importance and urgency of the decision.
Like Dover, other ports are also bracing for the EES transition. Yann Leriche, chief executive of Getlink, the company that owns Eurotunnel, emphasised the need to adeptly manage this change, highlighting that difficulties aren’t an option for the service. Getlink has already invested £100m to construct a new area equipped with 75 data registration stands to ease the process.
In addition to this, Getlink has also introduced digital technology for customs controls that allow goods to traverse the Channel as swiftly as they did before Brexit—a feature aimed at luring in more customers.
Despite the ongoing recovery of traffic through Eurotunnel, it still lags behind compared to pre-Covid figures. However, the Port of Dover recorded its busiest day since the onset of the pandemic on 29th July, with around 800 cars arriving every hour during peak times. This summer, they successfully managed 1.14 million passengers voyaging to France, nearly matching the port’s pre-pandemic passenger traffic of 1.19 million in 2019. The average reported wait time at peak hours hovered around 41 minutes.