Scandinavia Ferry Mars DFDS Largest Lego Ship

Passenger complaints over the lack of a ferry route between the UK and Scandinavia mar the DFDS 150 anniversary record attempt – as the firm reveals huge growth between Dover, Calais and Dunkirk.

Also, Rallye Deutschland’s wildly popular Panzerplatte. Tourist faces child negligence charge after leaving baby in car in Spain. Bad weekend weather on the Channel. New electric car fast chargers open on major Portugal routes.

SCANDINAVIA ROUTE LACK MARS DFDS LARGEST LEGO SHIP

World record model reveal swamped with passenger complaints.

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The reveal of the DFDS ‘World’s Largest Lego Ship’ yesterday was marred by customer complaints over the lack of a ferry route between the UK and Scandinavia.

At 12.035 metres long and 1.67 metres wide, ‘Jubilee Seaways’ – built to celebrate the firm’s 150 anniversary celebrations this year – was confirmed as largest by Guinness Book of World Records.

But Facebook followers were more interested in a Scandinavia ferry route.

DFDS closed its Harwich-Esbjerg line in September 2014, and with it the last scheduled ferry route between the UK and Scandinavia.

Dave Scullion said, ‘Lego is something you should be giving our children and grandchildren to play with on a nice leisurely voyage to Denmark. Instead they now have to suffer hours of being cooped up in the car on the long drive from Holland.

Kirsten Pallesen said, ‘We could use a good service to Scandinavia, a lot more useful than a Lego ship ….. better you have spent money on that than all those Lego bricks!’

Kristin Sorensen said, ‘Yes we need a route to Scandinavia, please consider reopening Esbjerg to Harwich.’

Gavin McCormick said, ‘Shame it wasn’t a descent route to Scandinavia…’ 

To each comment the firm replied, ‘We have no plans to reinstate a Scandinavian route unfortunately.’

Meanwhile, DFDS today unveiled a stonking set of financial results, particularly on the English Channel.

Freight volumes were up 63 percent in Q2, April to June 2016, while passenger numbers increased by 23% between Dover, Dunkirk and Calais.

This is mainly down to a 70 percent increase in volume on the routes with the addition of two new ships in the spring.

But it will also be at least partly due to the controversial closure of fellow Dover-Calais operator MyFerryLink on 1 July last year.

Only during Q4 will it be clear how well the firm is really doing on the route on a like for like basis.

Overall it seems DFDS is fighting fit. Revenues were up 7 percent in Q2, and profit by 39 percent – to DKK443 million (£51.2 million). Return on capital increased to a healthy 16.4 percent.

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Slippery in the dry and treacherous when wet, the infamous tank proving ground ‘Panzerplatte’ waits to catch out the world’s best rally drivers at this weekend’s Rallye Deutschland. Like Finland’s Ouninpohja, Panzerplatte is one of the sport’s toughest challenges. Concrete ‘Hinkelsteins’ line the kerbs on the ‘maze’ of roads running through the 10,000 hectare military area at Baumholder, between Frankfurt and Saarbrucken in western Germany. Photo @VolkswagenMotorsport

Slippery in the dry and treacherous when wet, the infamous tank proving ground ‘Panzerplatte’ waits to catch out the world’s best rally drivers at this weekend’s Rallye Deutschland. Like Finland’s Ouninpohja, Panzerplatte is one of the sport’s toughest challenges. Concrete ‘Hinkelsteins’ line the kerbs on the ‘maze’ of roads running through the 10,000 hectare military area at Baumholder, between Frankfurt and Saarbrucken in western Germany. Photo @VolkswagenRally

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roundup: SPAIN. A German driver who left his nine month old son in the car while he nipped into a supermarket now faces a charge of child negligence. A concerned passer-by alerted Guardia Civil after spotting the child strapped into the back seat of the car in Alicante reports The Local Spain. Police smashed the window and administered first aid though the baby made a full recovery. CROSSING THE CHANNEL. Weekend ferry services are expected to be disrupted by bad weather. Both Brittany Ferries and Condor Ferries have alerted customers to potential delays while Dover, Calais and Dunkirk crossings from P&O and DFDS are also likely to be affected. PORTUGAL. New fast-chargers opened on the A2 this week mean it will be possible for electric cars to drive between the capital Lisbon and the Algarve for the first time. Three rapid chargers have opened on the north-south A2 – at Galp filling stations – plus two more on the east-west A22 in the south says The Portugal News. The government is pledged to open fifty EV fast chargers by the end of the year.

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@DriveEurope September Shutdown

Daily updates suspended @DriveEurope for the next six weeks as we get to grips with Brexit (and our backlog).

Also, real time links for traffic, travel and weather. And, Volvo unveils ‘the world’s fastest truck’. Work restarts on final sections of controversial Sofia-Thessaloniki motorway.

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@DRIVEEUROPE SEPTEMBER SHUTDOWN

Regrouping post-Brexit, and move up north.

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Carsington Water, Derbyshire Peak District. Moving north @DriveEurope might have been disruptive but it comes with many benefits.

Our first response to the Brexit vote in June was to keep calm and carry on.

Brexit could be a good thing, obviously.

But there’s no getting away from the fact that it has fundamentally recast the rationale behind @DriveEurope and we need some down time to think it through.

‘Europe’ and the Continent just feel less relevant these days – though keeping abreast of EU transport policy, and what happens on its roads, will be as important as ever.

That’s one reason why @DriveEurope will be back.

Another is that we still love it. Not just the seven-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day blog and twitter operation over the past three years – it’s become a way of life – but the actual driving part too.

There’s much excitement here about our next trip, next month, around France.

Meanwhile, moving up north has also been hugely disruptive.

It meant we missed our traditional spring road trip but, more importantly, it stopped us shifting the blog up a gear.

Like all the best road trips, @DriveEurope needs to break new ground to keep it interesting.

Need-to-know information will always be free but long term the blog needs to make money.

Disappointingly, exciting plans from earlier in the year have so far come to nothing. This cannot go on.

So, the daily blog and traffic roundups are suspended for the next month, ahead of the France trip, while we regroup, rethink, reorganise, tackle the backlog and generally chill out a bit.

It won’t be possible to leave @DriveEurope totally alone. We’ll keep abreast of developments, just not with the usual intensity. Should anything really important happen we’ll be as all-over-it as we have been in the past.

Finally, heartfelt thanks to all readers and sorry, particularly, to those who feel their safety net has been taken away for the next six weeks. Don’t worry, at worst you will be fine.

Resources: see Traffic/Travel/Weather for the links we use to compile our daily briefs – Meteoalarm for extreme weather warnings; Weatheronline for the forecast; and direct links for the service updates from the cross-Channel operators, including ports of Dover and Calais. TomTom has precise info on delays on particular stretches of road – though you have to register – but for a really good overview see Google maps traffic tab. The Swiss TCS website is best for checking delays at the Gotthard Tunnel; the Mont Blanc Tunnel has its own regularly updated website.  

In general, we advise against driving into Calais port overnight thanks to regular migrant road blocks on the A216/N216 ‘rocade’ port access road. If you have to get into Calais port at night, drive through the town centre off the A16 and follow signs to the port. There have been no reported problems driving out of Calais at night.

Meanwhile, there has no repeat of the horrendous passport control queues seen at Dover last month. At worst this week, drivers have waited up to 30mins. However, DFDS warns drivers returning to the UK through Calais or Dunkirk this weekend – 19-22 August – to allow 90 minutes to check-in.

Traffic: like last year, holiday traffic is dragging on for longer than expected. Last weekend – 12-14 August – was France’s busiest of the year after two damp squib so-called ‘Black Saturdays’, for instance. In theory however, roads should start to calm down now ahead of a completely quiet September in France, though queues at Gotthard will carry on for a few weeks yet. See more.

Borders: delays continue to dog cross-border roads between Belgium and northern France, particularly the A16/E40 towards Calais and Dunkirk. For heading between the Channel ports and east Belgium, Germany, the North and the East consider ‘the bottom way’ E42 via Lille and Charleroi. Otherwise, random motorway border queues hit drivers between Austria and Germany – and, especially at the moment, from Hungary to Austria – and between France and Spain, particularly at the Atlantic border.   

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The body is bespoke but the engine and seamless double clutch transmission of Volvo’s ‘The Iron Knight’ is standard – except for some extra turbochargers which boost power from a production 760bhp to a record ready 2400bhp. With Boije Ovebrink behind the wheel, next Wednesday the Swedish truck manufacturer takes a tilt at the 500m and 1000m standing start speed records. See more.

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roundup: BULGARIA. Building restarts on some of the final sections of the ‘Struma Motorway’, the 156km road between capital Sofia and Greece (and on to Thessaloniki). First up will be a 24km stretch south of the very environmentally sensitive Kresna Gorge, linking with an existing section all the way to the border reports Novinite.com. Next year, works begins on a 13km section from Blagoevgrad and Krupnik, also linking to an existing stretch north to Sofia. This leaves a 21km gap through the gorge itself which was to have featured – controversially – one of Europe’s longest tunnels. Plans have apparently now been downgraded to the 2.2km ‘Zhelenitsa Tunnel’ plus two 700m viaducts, one at each end. Seventeen companies have bid for the contract says the Independent Balkan News Agency.

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Wildlife and Ruins Threat to M20 Truck Park

The proposed £250 million truck park on the M20 in Kent has already surmounted some significant obstacles, but could still fall foul of local wildlife, and archaeology.

And, a new semi-leash for keen Porsche drivers. British family latest victims of vehicle passport theft in Spain as road safety takes big turn for worse. Norway will not ban fossil fuelled vehicles. Truck gates to be installed on Rhine Bridge at Cologne.

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WILDLIFE AND RUINS THREAT TO M20 TRUCK PARK

Ominous obstacles ahead of massive £250 million M20 truck park.

Consultation launched on proposed M20 truck park. More later.

Looking north across the proposed M20 truck park. Picture from Highways England consultation.

New prime minster Theresa May put the brakes on the Hinckley Point nuclear power station, but one eye-wateringly expensive government project apparently gaining her approval is the proposed £250 million ‘Operation Stack’ truck park beside the M20 in Kent.

Since it was revealed by then Chancellor George Osborne in November 2015, the project has proceeded at breakneck pace.

Last week, Highways England published detailed plans for the preferred option: a facility north and south of the motorway, with space for 3600 vehicles, between the villages of Stanford and Sellinge –very close to M20 junction 11, and three miles from Eurotunnel,.

The site is surrounded by AONB Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and bordered by one SSSI Site of Special Scientific Interest, two listed buildings and several houses.

The plans are up for public consultation for the next six weeks, until 23 September 2016.

Highways England wants the truck park to open at least partially by Sumer 2017 but the consultation documents spell out at least two threats to the timetable, both of which are notorious for causing delays to big infrastructure projects.

Wildlife surveys have so far found bats, badgers, reptiles, wintering and breeding birds and water voles but the consultation document shows monitoring will drag on until next month.

Meanwhile, though archaeological surveys conducted south of the M20 during the Channel Tunnel build will not need to be repeated, the much bigger northern section is virgin territory.

Within 10 metres of the northern boundary are two listed buildings, the Grade II* listed Stanford Windmill and Grade II listed Gibbins Brook Farmhouse Shalom and geophysical surveys show possible archaeology underneath the northern portion.

Trial trenches will be dug across the site with further excavations should anything be found…

Highways England says it is still deciding how the site will operate. There will however certainly be 500 permanent overnight spaces to combat widespread illegal truck parking in Kent.

The rest of the site will only come into operation during heavy disruption to cross-Channel services, with access directly off the M20.

The permanent spaces will only be accessed via the Stop24 services south of junction 11, with a new connecting bridge to the site across the East Stour River. A second bridge will be built over the motorway to connect the two sites.

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instab control

Porsche’s new PSM Sport is not a drift mode the firm insists. Rather it’s an ‘instability system’ which recognises when the driver has the situation under control and then allows a sportier driving style, i.e. oversteer. It’s a new halfway house between nannying traction control systems and no-holds-barred all systems switched off for keen drivers. Photo Porsche Newsroom.

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roundup: SPAIN. A Nottingham family are £1000 out of pocket after thieves stole their passports and clothes from their hire car in Barcelona last week. The Thompsons from Nottingham join 400 other people who have had their travel documents stolen from vehicles so far this year says the FCO’s @BritsVisitSpain. Worse, since the passports were left in a car, they are not covered by the family’s travel insurance reports the Nottingham Post. Emergency documents – at £100 each – were issued on Tuesday but by then they had missed their booked flight home. Meanwhile, after a particularly deadly bank holiday weekend, Spanish roads deaths are up by almost 9.4 percent so far this year according to The Spain Report. Fatalities have jumped from 664 in the same period last year to 727 this year, including 17 deaths at the weekend. The head of the roads agency DGT was recently outed in an alleged corruption scandal while Spain has anyway struggled recently to build on spectacular progress on road safety in the past decade. NORWAY. It has become an article of faith recently that Norway is preparing to ban fossil fuelled vehicles, despite the lack of official announcements. Now the government has set the record straight says Reuters following fresh reports in the German media. ‘This government wants to encourage more environmentally friendly vehicles by using the carrot instead of a stick,’ a spokesman told the news agency adding that new technology would see conventional fuels phased out naturally rather than as the result of a ban. GERMANY. The damaged Rhine Bridge on the A1 at Leverkusen near Cologne is to have a truck gate fitted next month. The ageing bridge has been closed to trucks 3.5t+ for some time while a new crossing is under construction – but 150 still use it illegally each days says Transport-Online.de. The new system comprises of a weighing device and an automatic lock, similar to the ones also in use at the Schierstein Bridge on the A66 in Wiesbaden and on the A6 in the Saarland. It should be in place by the end of September or early October.

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Holiday Traffic Goes On and On

Jam-dodgers and terrorism combine to spread holiday road trip misery in France and Germany.

Also, another wrong-way crash at the Nurburgring. Sweden minister resigns over 0.2 blood alcohol level. Too slow Pokémon Go fine Luxembourg.

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HOLIDAY TRAFFIC GOES ON AND ON

Much, much busier than expected in France and Germany lately.

Busy but not exceptional return traffic had been forecast for France this weekend, but now looks optimistic.

Busy but not exceptional return traffic had been forecast for France this weekend, but now looks optimistic. Picture Bison Fute.

An ‘unusually large volume’ of German drivers caused heavy queues in northern Austria and Italy over the weekend as, like last year, the holiday season stretches on for much longer than expected.

According to ADAC’s ‘jam calendar’ the last very busy weekend of the summer should have been 5-6 August.

A spokesman told DW.de, ‘That the German vacation traffic clogs up so heavily in upper Italy … that’s not what I have observed for a long time.’

In his estimation, ‘Many of those who are now driving to Italy would have flown previously to Turkey.’

On Friday alone there were 3200 jams in Germany, concentrated in Nord-Rhein Westphalia in the west and Bavaria in the south east according to MittelBayerische.de.

Cumulative tailbacks stretched 7500km, close to the recent record of 8000km seen on the Pfingsten holiday last year.

Meanwhile, after a couple of false starts, holiday traffic in France has also gone on much longer than expected.

The two official ‘Black Saturdays’ were much less busy than anticipated.

At peak 670km on Saturday 30 July, total queues were hugely less than the record 994km from 2014, and well down on last year’s 880km.

But the Saturday just gone – merely a ‘red’ day according to traffic monitor Bison Fute – turned out to be the busiest day of the year at 855km.

This does not bode well for the weekend coming. The incontrovertible law of traffic is that which goes away must return home again.

Bison Fute has been expecting a red day on Saturday – for return traffic towards Paris from the coastal resorts – but it now looks to be much busier than that.

See what should have happened.

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Nurburgring ‘tourist drivers’ wait to go out onto the circuit this morning. The drivers had a good day, by all accounts, however a 36 year old British man was airlifted to hospital after a wrong-way accident outside the track. He wasn’t even driving but attempting to take the ‘iconic’ photo of his car beside the Nurburgring sign along the four-lane B258 reports BridgetoGantry.com. Apparently he looked in the wrong direction as he crossed the road and was hit by a motorbike. It follows another Nurburgring wrong-way crash involving a British driver in May, though he was driving. He was also airlifted to hospital. Photo @Nuerburgring

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roundup: SWEDEN. A minister has resigned after being caught with a BAC Blood Alcohol Level of 0.2 (i.e. right on the legal limit). Aida Hadzialic, 29 (she was the youngest ever minister when appointed age 27), with responsibility for Upper Secondary School and Adult Education and Training – and, incidentally, also a Muslim – was caught on the Oresund Bridge on Thursday says Radio Sweden. She said she had drunk two glasses of wine before a concert in Copenhagen around four hours earlier. LUXEMBOURG. A driver was fined an unspecified amount for driving too slowly while playing Pokemon Go. The man was caught at 8km in the early hours of Sunday morning reports Wort.lu.

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Migrants Increasingly Playing With Fire in Calais

Theoretically at least the major holiday rush is now over – except for Switzerland – though roads will still be busy for the next few weeks (ahead of a completely quiet September in France).

Also, migrants are increasingly setting fire to blockades – and trucks – on the Calais port road overnight. And, some faint good news on French road safety, despite a truly tragic accident last night, while Brussels finally sees light at the end of its tunnels.

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HOLIDAY TRAFFIC NOW PAST THE SUMMER PEAK

Be prepared for big delays but don’t expect them.

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Austria might be looking forward to a quieter weekend but for the MotoGP at the Red Bull Ring. See more below. Photo @ASFINAG

Calais residents are being asked to avoid the rocade ring road into the port for the next three weekends to make way for returning British tourists.

French and British border forces will open all their booths – ‘ensure thorough checks in response to the terrorist threat, and ensure a smooth transition,’ the sub-prefect of Calais Vincent Berton told NordLittoral.fr – as 6000 tourists make their way through the port and 8000 through Eurotunnel (slightly more than last year apparently).

Ferry operators warn drivers to leave at least 90 minutes to check-in.

But while the Channel is expected to be busy, holiday traffic across the Continent has now passed the summer peak (with a few exceptions).

The roads in France are marked ‘red’ this weekend – for both arrivals and departures between Paris, essentially, and the major (coastal) holiday centres – down from the ‘black’ of the two previous weekends.

Drivers should be prepared for delays. But since holiday traffic so far this year is well down on previous summers, huge delays are not forecast.

From now on traffic in France is in steady decline ahead of a completely quiet September.

However, while traffic from France to Italy via the Mont Blanc Tunnel will also now ease, traffic in the other direction now enters its busiest period.

Saturday afternoons will see long delays for the next three weeks, especially next weekend.

Theoretically, traffic in Germany is past the peak too though busy roads drag on all through September and October.

Based on last year’s experience, and how enthusiastic German drivers have proved themselves so far this summer, it would be folly to expect a clear run, in whichever direction, just yet.

Northern Germany particularly has taken a real beating recently.

Austria might be looking forward to a quieter weekend too but for the MotoGP at the Red Bull Ring, plus the inevitable stragglers bunging up cross-border routes with Germany, Italy and Slovenia (i.e. Fernpass, the Karawanke Tunnel, A13 Brenner autobahn – plus see motorway border queues with Germany).

Detour delays might have settled down this week but the closure of the Gleinalm Tunnel is bound to cause problems on the A9 to and from Graz.  

Italy’s Black Saturday was last weekend, and wasn’t too bad in the event.

This weekend is a last gasp for departures before heavy – but not manic – returns kick in from next weekend.

Meanwhile, after a one week lull, Spain is expected to see another peak of departure and returns this weekend – though less than the big getaway a fortnight ago – concentrated on Friday and Saturday according to DGT.es.

The biggest trouble will be in Switzerland, still in the thick of multi-hour queues at the Gotthard Tunnel.

The only chance to avoid delays is in the hours ahead of daybreak. After that however, forget it.

Jams carry on at Gotthard until mid-October though they begin to slack from the last weekend in August.

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In a worrying escalation from the nightly road blocks in Calais, migrants are now increasingly setting fire to objects thrown on the road, and even the trucks themselves. Early yesterday morning, a vehicle was apparently ‘firebombed’ Calais regular Sam tells us today. The driver behind was threatened with an iron bar. It comes after truck driver Hannah Scott escaped unharmed early Tuesday morning when migrants threw petrol soaked blocks wood onto the road. Police fortunately intervened before they could be lit. Late last month, a French vehicle was also set on fire on the port road, above. The driver also escaped unharmed. Meanwhile, the number of migrants living in the Jungle has reached 9000 according to local reports today, up from 5000 before the summer, as the president of the Nord Pas de Calais region calls for a ‘dawn to dusk’ curfew. Photo Les Calisiens en Colere

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roundup: more good news – if only very slight – on French road safety. One fewer person died on the roads in July compared to the same month last year according to Securite Routiere today, a fall of 0.3 percent. It has more significance than it might sound like however since July and August between them usually account for around 20 percent of the annual death toll. It also brings the overall growth in fatalities this year so far down to 1.5 percent, from 1.9 percent over the first six months of 2016. Meanwhile however, a Swedish tourist died last night after vaulting over a roadside wall in the aftermath of an accident in Sainte Maxime on the Cote d’Azur. The young woman fell 10 meters to her death though her companion’s fall was broken by vegetation and she survived reports The Local France… also good news – almost unalloyed – on the major road works in central Brussels. Of the major tunnels undergoing emergency rehabilitation, only the Montgomery Tunnel on N3 east of the city centre is running late. Its reopening has been put back from November to mid-December says the Brussels Times. Otherwise, all the rest should be finished by early September.

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Major Roads Reopen After Marseille Wildfire

Drivers trapped overnight as wildfire rages in the South of France.

Also, summer snow thaws on Austria’s Grossglockner. Catching up with border delays around Europe. France’s D1212 Gorge de l’Arly finally reopens.

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MAJOR ROADS REOPEN AFTER MARSEILLE WILDFIRE 

Major roads reopening as situation stabilises.

The A7 north of Marseille threatened by wildfire yesterday. Photo @SDIS13

The A7 north of Marseille threatened by wildfire yesterday. Photo @SDIS13

As wildfire ripped across south central France from yesterday afternoon, drivers stuck on the A7 north of Marseille were given emergency accommodation.

For a time, it looked like drivers on the A8 near Aix-en-Provence would suffer the same fate but the road was steadily reopened in the evening.

With admirable understatement, holidaymaker Liam Hesketh tweeted, ‘Was not expecting to see this out of a car window today,’ alongside a photo of the roadside in flames.

The A7 remains closed north of Marseille – between Vitrolles and Les Pennes Mirabeau, as does the A55 in both direction at Les Pennes Mirabeau.

‘The fire seems less intense than before but is not yet under control,’ said the Marseille mayor overnight according to France 24.

Fires had been affecting the entire Bouches de Rhone region of south central France, between Marseille, Arles and Aix-en-Provence.

The worst affected part is the west according to a map tweeted by @Visactu.

To be updated throughout the day.

Resources: see @VINCIAutoroutes and also the local fire department @SDIS13 and police @PoliceNat13.

Update 14:30BST: the A7 has now opened northbound, and the A55 in both directions.

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All looked much improved on Austria’s Grossglockner mountain road first thing this morning (pictured) after yesterday’s snow – when summer tyres were not allowed, snow chains were mandatory and two-wheelers were banned. Since then however, the cloud has descended and extinguished all views. On the other hand, the road is fully open without restrictions according to the latest update from Grossglockner.at. To be updated.

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roundup: a 45 minute queue on the E40/A16 Belgian border towards Dunkirk yesterday morning sparked fears of a repeat of Monday’s three hour delays. Luckily it was only a brief stoppage. The A16 border has been ‘closed’ for some months with drivers having to filter on and off under the watchful eyes of border guards, but checks have apparently been stepped up after Sunday’s terrorist incident in Brussels. It has otherwise been more or less quiet ever since, as has the cross-border E17 towards Lille, for the first time since the Paris Attacks last November. There have also been consistent but small delays both ways on the AP-1/A63 Atlantic and AP-7/A9 Mediterranean borders between France and Spain, and on the A10-A8 crossing at Ventimiglia towards France. The three motorway crossings between Austria and Germany have also seen a return to queues in the past week after a long period of quiet, each with delays of up to 60mins at various times. As has the M1-A4 border between Budapest and Vienna, especially last weekend but less so this week… after two separate landslides since April – one rocks, the other mud – the handy D1212 in the French Alps between Albertville and Megeve/Mont Blanc has finally reopened. @TrafficBasher drove it today. The reopening had been expected some weeks ago but official traffic site Savoie-Route.fr continues to show it closed…

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Calais Opens ‘Highly Secure’ New Truck Park

A new truck park hopes to improve security at Calais – at least inside the port.

Also, dramatic truck fire in Spain. Kent plan to split Dover and Eurotunnel traffic. Call for British armed sea marshals aboard cross-Channel ferries. Eurotunnel freight carries its millionth truck already.

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CALAIS OPENS ‘HIGHLY SECURE’ NEW TRUCK PARK

CCTV and new fences protect truck park for 1100 vehicles.

Sometime today, Calais Port will open a new buffer zone for trucks, near the old hoverport, before the check-in lanes. Full details are scarce so far, but the picture above shows separate lanes for hard-sided and soft-sided vehicles. Calais Port calls it 'intelligent parking'. There's no news yet either on security features. More later.

As of 09:00 this morning, trucks heading into Calais port are directed via a new, secure and computerised ‘buffer zone’.

Spread over four hectares, the new truck park has fifteen lanes with space for 1100 heavy vehicles. Free wi-fi is available throughout the port.

‘It will also be highly secure thanks to a CCTV system and new security fences’, says Calais Port in a statement.

P&O Ferries Freight said the new buffer zone would make security checks easier for freight traffic. 

The port decided to overhaul security at the end of last year, to withstand the arrival of 300 HGVs all at once. It was built in four months.

It is located near the old hoverport, before the check-in lanes, directly from the N216 port access road off the A16 and A26 (see map).

Waiting times will be substantially reduced says Calais Port. Vehicles can be parked depending on truck type, or by operator.

From the end of September, the parking management will be automated through a process described as ‘dynamic signalling’.

The new truck park will not directly solve the biggest security issue at Calais – migrants setting road blocks on the port road – though it may help make vehicles less vulnerable by reducing stationary queues into the port.

Truck driver Hannah Scott had a near miss last night when migrants threw wood into the road.

She told us, ‘Migrants tried to stop my truck but police beat them to it and cleared the road, wood was soaked in petrol. I’m just glad they turned up, God knows what would of happened to me if they lit the petrol!’

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Nothing so boring as a fire engine to put out a refrigerated truck fire this afternoon on the AP7 northbound to France at Girona, Spain. Delays stood at 2h00 at 14:00BST  but subsequently dropped to thirty minutes and were gone by 16:00BST (but back up to 40mins since..). Photo @BombersCat

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roundup: Kent County Council want to split coastbound traffic with drivers heading to Dover using the M2-A2 and those heading to Eurotunnel using the M20. Its new Local Transport Plan, out now for public consultation, says the proposed Lower Thames Crossing would open up a strategic route between Dover, the Midlands and the North. That the M20 route Is favoured by more drivers was evident during the recent border control queues: delays on M20/A20 topped six hours compared to just two hours on the M2/A2. Total upgrade works are priced at £393 million… meanwhile, Dover MP Charlie Elphicke has called on the UK government to follow the French lead and introduce armed sea marshals on board channel ferries. Currently each nation’s armed personnel are not allowed to operate in each other’s waters. The Daily Mail says Elphicke is an ally of new Prime Minister Theresa May… also, as of today, Eurotunnel freight has carried its millionth truck of the year, almost a month ahead of 2015. Every month since last November has been record said the Channel Tunnel operator in a statement.

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Sara Nase’s Best Driving Roads in Europe

Mountain specialist Sara Nase picks her ten best driving road in Europe – included are a few big names, but the majority are well off the beaten track.

Also, truck industry beats fundraising target to bring driver back from Italy. And, McLaren’s 12C Spider is ageing very well. Brussels driver to receive emergency messages via radio. German criminals to lose driving licences. 

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SARA NASE’S BEST DRIVING ROADS IN EUROPE

Magical landscapes and flowing roads – but timing is everything says mountain specialist.

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Col de Larrau, Pyrenees. See more at PassFinder

‘Ten best’ lists are always controversial but there can’t be many people with the breadth of experience to challenge Sara Nase’s ‘Best Driving Roads in Europe’.

Formerly of Ultimate Drives, now boss of her own driving tour firm Colcorsa, Nase has driven the length of Europe’s mountain roads from Romania to Spain and the Pyrenees via the Alps, mainly at the wheel of exotic, high powered sports cars.

We don’t think she just pootles along.

Top of the list – which otherwise is in no particular order – is Italy’s Stelvio Pass.

Criticised by many for the traffic, narrow road way, broken surface and annoyingly frequent – and tight – hairpins, Nase nevertheless insists Stelvio is magical as opposed to merely beautiful like the others.

That might have something to do with having driven it during a 04:00 sunrise.

‘Perfect timing is important,’ she says.

There’s no way to avoid the big name roads in a list like this – they are famous for a reason.

Also cited are Grossglockner, Transfagarasan and Col de Vence.

But the rest are interestingly off-beat such as the remote Colle de Nivolet, north west of Turin.

Star of The Italian Job, and the launch of the Alfa Romeo 4C, Nase describes it as ‘dangerous to drive fast’.

Another surprising choice is Austria’s Nockalm Road. Actually more of a family-orientated nature theme park – with twin peaks topping out at a substantial 2012m – the attractions are linked by an undeniably sinuous road in perfect condition which Nase calls ‘a good combination of everything’.

Similarly 2328m Bernina Pass, Switzerland’s open-all-year road to Italy, with its ‘breathtaking’ winter landscape.

And Col du Mont Cenis, the mountain bypass of the Frejus Tunnel between Lyon and Turin.

‘A great driving road is not always about reaching the top of a very high mountain in the middle of nowhere,’ she says. ‘That is a great feeling too, but the roads that stand out are also the ones that offer unforgettable landscapes. Col du Mont Cenis is however a great drive and a great road. You get two in one, really – eye candy and driving pleasure.’

Most obscure and off the beaten track however must be Col de Larrau in the Pyrenees, another cross-border pass, between Spain and France.

It tops out at a modest 1578m and is, she admits, ‘Perhaps not the most picture perfect.

But Larrau is however, ‘extra quiet’.

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It’s fair to say McLaren’s first sports car, the awkwardly named MP4-12C, was not universally praised on its debut in 2011. Its ‘generic’ supercar looks and lack of ‘soul’ saw it placed at least a notch behind the (Italian) competition. But detail updates for the open top Spider version released a year later – including dropping the MP4 part of the name – raised the car in general estimation. It certainly suits Swiss businessman Urs Tschudin. He drives it day in day out around Europe to visit customers of his precision machine tool business. In just over three years he has amassed an amazing 81,000 miles (130,000km) making it the highest mileage McLaren in the world. ‘It’s so comfortable and effortless, and it’s still big fun after three years,’ he says. ‘I usually keep my cars for five years, so I’ll push the mileage towards 250,000km (155,000 miles).’ Time has also been kind to the Spider’s looks too, no? Look no further than its residuals for further evidence of its renaissance. From an original list price of £195,000, the only official used example for sale in the UK today – a black 2013 model – is selling for £149,990. Photo McLaren Cars.

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roundup: outrage across the trucking industry over the weekend after it emerged the body of a driver who died suddenly in Italy would not be brought home by his firm. Paul Stanyard from Horbury near Wakefield was discovered in his cab in Ancona on 31 July. He did not have life insurance. His company – Matthews International Transport – said its insurance did not cover death by natural causes reported ITV News. Subsequently it offered £5000 towards the cost of repatriation, estimated at around £15,000. Happily, a fund set up by the family has raised its £10,000 target in just two days (and now stands at £21,000)… drivers in Brussels will receive emergency messages via their car radios with a new system to be installed by the end of the year. ‘FM break-in’ technology allows authorities to send broadcast messages to car radios in tunnels in the event of a serious incident such as a fire says Deredactie. However it only works if the radio is switched on, and will only broadcast in Dutch and French… criminals in Germany face having their driving licences taken away, even for non-motoring offences. The measure, tabled by the justice minister, will ‘create an alternative penalty to prison sentences in the case of people where a fine does not represent a perceptible setback’ reports DW.de, e.g. for rich offenders. The penalty would be decided on a case-by-case basis.

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Another Underwhelming Black Saturday in France

A second very quiet Black Saturday in France – but still very busy elsewhere. 

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16:00BST: as this final summer Black Saturday draws to a close it’s time to spot the trends and draw the conclusions. At just over 600km just after 12:00 today, peak jams were not only hugely down on the 944km record from 2014 but even less than last week – itself relatively quiet – despite France’s second Black Saturday traditionally being the busier. Drivers have left super-early, dodged the worst days, or – according to the Daily Telegraph this week – gone to another country entirely on their holidays this year. Elsewhere in Europe however the traffic has been as bad as ever, especially in Germany, particularly the north. Despite that early window, see below, queues at the Gotthard Tunnel have been consistently horrendous –though at a maximum 1h45 delay today, the Mont Blanc Tunnel France to Italy is far off its typical three hour delay at the worst times. Photo @VID

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10:30BST: as our traffic updates grow to take up three tweets it’s clear this is already a much busier Black Saturday than last weekend (when they all fitted into two). It’s not clear yet any records will be broken in France however – total jams stand at 400km, two thirds of last week’s total, with a couple of hours still to go before the (likely) peak.

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07:00BST: there’s been a definite lull as day breaks – delays have come down (slightly) on the A75 south from Clermont Ferrand (pic Millau, above), the A7 to Avignon and the A8 towards Salzburg. Last week’s damp squib Black Saturday was partly attributed to so many drivers heading off overnight and it seems the same thing has happened today. It makes sense for many but a note of caution – a German family a few miles from their destination in north east Italy early this morning were involved in a head-on crash, apparently after driving all night. According to local reports, the mother was killed and the father seriously injured, but it seems the three children escaped with minor injuries, as did the three local women in the other vehicle.

It looked pretty bad at the Gotthard Tunnel at 05:30BST - in fact, the delay southbound was only 30mins and it was clear northbound. How much longer will that go on?

It looked pretty bad at the Gotthard Tunnel at 05:30BST – in fact, the delay southbound was only 30mins and it was clear northbound. Meanwhile there were no queues at all at the Mont Blanc Tunnel. It’s extremely doubtful that state of affairs will go on much longer but it does underline the fact that, even on the busiest days, there is a narrow window first thing when it’s possible to pass through without the typical multi-hour delays at most other times.

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Austria A9 Gleinalm Tunnel Shut For A Month Or More

Major delays on diversion as Austria’s A9 Phyrn autobahn Gleinalm Tunnel closes after bus fire.

And, extremely near miss as plane crashes on Bergamo airport road. Haulage association in public appeal after continuing migrant trouble on Calais port road.

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AUSTRIA A9 GLEINALM TUNNEL SHUT FOR A MONTH OR MORE

Bus fire burns out ceiling on major north-south single lane tunnel.

Austria's Gleinalm Tunnel - on the north-south A9 between Graz and Leoben - in the south east could be shut for a month or more following a bus fire yesterday afternoon. The diversions have seen pretty hefty delays so far today, especially northbound which currently stands at 2h00. More later.

Photo Feuerwehren.at

The Gleinalm Tunnel, on the major A9 Pyhrn Autobahn in central Austria will be shut for at least the next month after a bus fire.

The double decker set alight last night (Thursday) and could only be removed this afternoon. The roof above was completely burned through and will have to be totally replaced.

Several people were taken to hospital suffering the effects of smoke inhalation but all are expected to recover.

Police praised the ‘correct behaviour’ of drivers and said the safety systems worked perfectly according to roads manager ASFINAG.

Diversions have been set up in both directions – on the A2 and A10 via Villach northbound and S6 and S35 via Leoben southbound.

There were multi-hour delays on S6/S35 this afternoon, as reported by James Stock.

Gleinalm is one of Austria’s longest tunnels at 8.32km, on the A9 between Leoben and Graz.

It currently has one lane in each direction though a second tube is in-build alongside, due to open next year.

The original tunnel will then close for renovation with both due in service in 2019.

Update 9 August: ASFINAG said today that Gleinalm will reopen in four weeks. Contractors will work round the clock to replace the damaged ceiling section plus fire detectors, alarms, lighting and traffic signs at a cost of €500,000. Luckily the road itself was not damaged. Delays on the S6-S35 diversion settled down over the weekend.

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A DHL freight plane landing early this morning at Bergamo’s Orio al Serio Airport overshot the runway, apparently in bad weather, and careered right across the SS591Bis ring road to the west of the airport. No-one was injured, either crew or drivers according to local reports. The airport reopened within a few hours but passengers are warned to expect disruption and delays. The nearby A4 Milan-Brescia motorway was not affected, and has been running smoothly so far this morning, though there are long delays on local roads. Photo via @Emergenza24

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roundup: a migrant threw a ‘boulder’ through the side window of a car belonging to a staff member at the RHA Road Haulage Association on the port road in Calais on Wednesday night. ‘Had this been a car with a family on board, probably with children in the back seats, they would have been killed,’ said RHA chief exec Richard Burnett, adding, ‘We strongly urge HGV drivers and members of the public who experience such acts of aggression too get in touch with us through the Calais reporting line on (+44) 1274 863111. Only by getting first-hand information can we make a difference and get this issue back at the top of the political and media agenda.’ The port road is site of near nightly incidents with migrants. Local reports yesterday said migrants were lying across the road in an effort to stop trucks and stowaway to reach the UK. The port road was closed by police for some hours early Thursday morning according to DFDS.

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