Calais Strike: Live Blog

roundup Day Two: Eurotunnel survived two invasions today – one from migrants overnight and another from MyFerryLink strikers this afternoon – as the dispute spread from Calais. Fortunately Dunkirk has so far escaped trouble though the roads around have been jammed all day. Union boss Eric Vercoutre has issued at least two media threats to escalate the action. Hopefully P&O’s improvised one-way service from Dover to Boulogne can relieve some pressure because, as feared, the strike looks almost certain to carry on until Thursday. The most pressing concern at the moment however is the lack of food and water for drivers stuck on either side of the Channel, on the hottest day of the year so far (@KentPoliceRoads subsequently tweeted to say ‘contrary to media reports water has been supplied to lorry drivers in Operation Stack’, but see below). See Day Three live blog here.

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Operation Stack:

The Operation Stack HGV queue is in place on the M20 for the second time in two weeks. Yesterday the coastbound carriageway J8-9 was closed; this afternoon Phase 3, in the opposite direction, was closed too. Non-freight traffic is diverted via yellow square signs with a black border (though car drivers are advised to use the M2/A2 route to Dover). Coastbound trucks must join the M20 queue, to receive a ticket; all trucks without tickets are turned away at Dover. Photo @KentPoliceRoads

16:30: it seems the threat of the strike spreading to Dunkirk has receded for now. Despite reports a convoy of protestors heading that way, @DFDSSeaways tells @LeeSmith_107, ‘No reported industrial action at Dunkirk. Heavy congestion due to volume of traffic.’

16:00: truck drivers waiting in the Operation Stack queue have been left without food and water. @YouAreParsons was told some was on the way but in the end was given a bottle of water by a passing police rider. He wasn’t the only one complaining. (Dutch transport minister Melanie Schultz has also urgently asked French authorities to supply water in Calais and Dunkirk too).

Meanwhile, the organisation around Operation Stack seems woeful. The official Kent Police page was last updated at 08:45 this morning despite Phase 3 being introduced this afternoon (see above). Last week, questions from drivers needing to know how long it would remain in place went unanswered; it was lifted just a couple of hours later.

15:30: Brittany Ferries issues a statement to say there is still space available on many sailings and that all routes are operating as normal. It runs 120 departures each week between the UK, France and Spain in the Western Channel. See Brittany-Ferries.co.uk, or phone 0871 244 1400.

15:15: it seems P&O will start a one-way service from Dover to Boulogne (see 13:30), message received via Motis Ireland. Strictly one-way – just off-loading in Boulogne – no-frills to maximise carrying capacity.

At the same time it says it has been warned the strike could last until midnight Thursday 2 July.

14:30: Emma Bentley, finally arrived in Dunkirk reports, ‘Traffic leaving Dunkirk ferry port very, very heavy. Standstill, even. Roads blocked off. Police everywhere,’ – along with a picture of a group of police at a traffic island (see 09:30).

13:50: more threats from union boss Eric Vercoutre (see below). Thelocal.fr quotes him saying, ‘The blockade is in place. We want to make the French, British and Belgian governments understand that if a solution isn’t found to save our 600 jobs, there will be a lot of disruption this summer.

‘When the mobilization ramps up, we’ll block everything,’ he warned.

13:30: intriguing possibility that P&O is trying to outfox the strikers by sailing to Boulogne instead. @DoverFerryPhotos reports Pride of Burgundy is in Boulogne with Pride of Kent enroute. However, @POFerries tells @FerrymanThe, ‘This is a discharge only service to clear stranded passengers from the Port of Dover ONLY. Thanks.’

Meanwhile, P&O is telling customers it ‘doesn’t foresee the strike extending beyond Thursday’.

13:00: Eurotunnel services suspended. Strikers have gained access to French terminal and started a fire on the track says @Eurostar.

Phase 3 of Operation Stack is implemented, London-bound J9-8, see above.

12:30: like last week, another forthright statement from P&O chief executive Helen Dibble. She calls on both the French and British governments to intervene and says the strikes are putting thousands of P&O jobs at risk. Worth reading in full:

‘Through no fault of their own, our passengers are caught in the middle of an industrial relations battle that has been caused by Eurotunnel who sold their ships to a rival ferry company without securing the jobs of the workers involved. This has left thousands of holidaymakers and lorry drivers stranded without adequate facilities, even though our employees at the port have done their level best to keep them supplied with food and water.

Let me be clear: the buck stops with the French government. They have shown that they can move swiftly to stop any disruption at the Tunnel. But they have effectively abandoned any attempt to maintain security at the port of Calais, which makes a nonsense of European co-operation.

And when is the British government going to stand up to ensure that we can all get to mainland Europe safely and securely? Every day that the disruption lasts costs UK plc millions of pounds. P&O Ferries alone employs thousands of people on both sides of the Channel and this damaging and dangerous industrial action is putting those jobs at risk.’

12:00: poignant tweet from MyFerryLink in reply to criticism via twitter saying the staff in the office are not on strike and are doing all they can to assist. The person behind the account adds, ‘I am very proud of them’.

11:30: DFDS tweets to say Dunkirk Port is open but there are high freight volumes arriving at the port.

09:30: frequent traveller Emma Bentley, waiting in Dover, tweets to say she was warned at check-in of the possibility strikers may try to shut Dunkirk today. However, Freightlink tweets to say a strike at Dunkirk is not possible since staff there have a legal agreement in their contracts not to strike – though @A CommonLawyer says the right to strike is constitutional, adding ‘minimum service’ is different. We shall see.

09:00: MyFerryLink tweets, ‘Important: access to Calais now impossible so unable to transfer. Customers advised to seek alternative services for travel to UK’.

08:30: Daniel Fasquelle, Deputy of the Pas-de-Calais region, demands Eurotunnel be brought before a hearing of the Commission of Economic Affairs. He calls the decision to sell the MyFerryLink ships to DFDS ‘incomprehensible’.

07:30: ‘Right now the action is concentrated on the port,’ the main maritime union organising the industrial action – Eric Vercoutre – tells AFP. He also apparently doesn’t rule out ‘wider action in the days ahead’.

06:00: ‘migrant disturbance’ at Eurotunnel’s French terminal suspends services but they resume at around 07:00 albeit with some disruption.

OVERNIGHT: recognition that P&O is most badly hit of all the short sea operators. Tony Essam, stuck in Calais, tweets, ‘So you booked MyFerryLink you can go by the tunnel, if you booked DFDS you can go by Dunkirk, if you booked P&O tough!’ Ferry industry consultant Paul Woodbury tweets, ‘This is having real detrimental and unfair impact on P&O and their customers. Authorities need to act fast.’

DFDS confirmed to Kent Online the company would be taking over the MyFerryLink ships but says it will not honour bookings made for after the takeover date (2 July).

RECAP: MyFerryLink workers went on strike early yesterday morning with all services cancelled ‘until further notice’. By 14:30BST the services of DFDS and P&O were suspended too. See more here.

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