A Brutal Time To Drive In France, But Don’t Panic!

Calais strike, illegals, freight queues, farmer blockades, wild fires and this weekend’s Black Saturday threaten to ruin the start of the holidays. But, don’t panic!

Also, a major row is brewing about the M20 Operation Stack. Exactly how many illegals invaded Eurotunnel last night?! Romania’s Transalpina mountain road opens officially in August. Nurburgring drivers seem to love Porsche 911s.

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A BRUTAL TIME TO DRIVE IN FRANCE

Drivers face a string of challenges ahead of the summer’s great holiday getaway.

French farmers empty an Italian tanker onto the D910 near Metz on 22 July. Photo via @NRCP_Poitiers

French farmers empty an Italian tanker onto the D910 near Metz. Photo via @NRCP_Poitiers

A lone British truck driver heading north on the N10 from Bordeaux on Monday was anxious to know why traffic had come to a sudden halt.

It is perfectly understandable in a week when angry mobs of French farmers have spoiled loads and threatened drivers.

Fortunately on this occasion the problem was a run-of-the-mill traffic incident. Within half an hour he was on his way.

But it is not only truck drivers bearing the brunt of France’s ‘Summer of Discontent’.

Thanks to the blockades, Patricia Stoughton said she had a ‘dreadful’ drive across Brittany last week.

Hundreds of drivers were stuck for hours on end today on the A31 between Thionville and Metz, and the A4 and A4 towards Strasbourg at Phalsbourg.

However, while the farmers show no sign of calling off their protests completely the intensity has certainly lessened.

Different parts of the country are targeted each day and there is plenty of notice about where the next blocks will strike.

If last weekend is anything to go by, it seems likely the blocks will be lifted completely for this week’s Black Saturday, the busiest day of the year on the roads.

Meanwhile, despite Eurotunnel’s well-publicised and now long-running struggle with illegal migrants – see below – things do seem to be looking up in Calais.

All the parties are now fully engaged in talks to end the strike.

Also, P&O says the recent security upgrades in Calais have done the trick.

Commercial Director Janette Bell said today, ‘Traffic on the slip roads can access the port freely cars and lorries queue safey and efficiently in a secure area, and there is no point at which illegal migranst come into contact with our passengers.’

One thing it seems drivers will not have to worry about is wild fires.

More than 1,000 campers were evacuated from a site near Frejus in the South of France yesterday but, while the areas around Bordeaux and Frejus remain on high alert, the authorities say the situation for now is under control.

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Sportcars, mainly Porche 911s it has to be said, queue into the Nurburgring at the weekend. Photo Nurburgring.de

Porsche 911s queue into the Nurburgring at the weekend. Photo Nuerburgring.de

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roundup: FREIGHT. The argument over the M20 freight queue Operation Stack is – unsurprisingly – turning into a real humdinger. Last week Kent County Council held a meeting with all those involved which decided a contraflow system on the M20 would be the best solution. However, Highways England yesterday poured cold water on the idea saying it would be a ‘significant and unacceptable risk to road users and road workers’. The Freight Transport Association called the decision ‘extremely frustrating’. Local MP Damian Green called Highways England ‘a shower’. ROMANIA. Around 500 drivers use it each day already – and double that at weekends – despite Transalpina being closed for repairs. However, Romania’s second most famous road – after Jeremy Clarkson favourite Transfagarasan – officially reopens next month. ‘We are currently working on installing the safety guardrails, the markings, signs, and everything else that is necessary for this road to be ready in early-August,’ the local CNADNR roads manager tells Romania-Insider.com. See here about how to get there. CALAIS ILLEGALS. The BBC’s Polly Evans said this afternoon, ‘Eurotunnel have told us that they’re dealing with hundreds of migrants a night trying to access the French terminal, but didn’t confirm 2000.’ Very quickly however her BBC colleagues – and other national and international media – seized on the 2000 figure and ran with it (to be fair, politico.eu said ‘almost 2000’). By this evening, the number had swollen to 2700 according to The Times’ Sean O’Neill. Update 29 July: by this morning reason had returned. BBC Radio 4 Today reporter Peter Whittlesea, in Calais, said the numbers had been exaggerated by the same illegals returning to the terminal ‘again and again’ after being removed by the police.

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