A nationwide problem with e-gates at ports and airports has resulted in long lines and “scenes of utter chaos” at the UK border.
Due to technical issues, the electronic gates stopped working late Friday, requiring all passengers to be handled through an staffed airport desk.
This comes as the holiday break increases traffic on the highway and increases queues in Dover.
Heathrow Airport said it was aware of the issues affecting passengers.
Image: Passengers queue at Heathrow Airport on Saturday morning. Photo: Ivan Konyx
The airport added that the e-gates are operated by border guards and that the problem is widespread at airports and ports.
“Our team is working closely with border guards to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, and we have additional colleagues on board to manage the queue and provide passenger welfare.
“We apologize for the impact this has on passenger travel.”
The Home Office also confirmed delays in UK arrivals.
A spokesperson said: “We are aware of issues with the national border system affecting entry into the UK.
“We are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible and are liaising with port operators and airlines to minimize disruption to travelers.”
A traveler from Heathrow said on Twitter that he waited in line for four hours.
Another said he met “the mother of the queue” for a manual passport check.
Another from Heathrow tweeted: “Just landed on a scene of complete chaos. Waited in line for 2 hours to get to the actual line. Gates are broken.”
There are over 270 eGates across the UK border.
It can be used by UK and EU citizens aged 12 and over, as well as people from several other countries including Australia, Canada, USA, Japan and New Zealand.
Travelers on the road also face the prospect of long lines throughout the weekend.
Traveling on some sections of the M25 can take up to three times longer than usual, warns transport data company Inrix.
Long delays are also expected on the M5 in Somerset and the M6 in Cheshire and Greater Manchester.
RAC’s estimates suggest motorists across the UK will make 19.2 million recreational car trips between Friday and Monday, with the hottest day so far expected to be Sunday.
Ferry passengers passing through Dover were advised to allow two hours to complete border control and check-in, even before electronic gate problems arose.
“Prepare refreshments and use of facilities before arriving at port,” the DFDS ferry company tweeted.
The Port of Dover said the French border control delays were due to “IT problems” caused by the “high volume of tourist and cargo traffic on access to the port”.
Image: Line waiting for the ferry at Dover on a Saturday morning
People in line at Dover told Sky News that they had missed the ferry because of the line and were “looking to find out soon” if they could catch the boat later.
“It’s embarrassing, but it’s a reality,” they said.
The resigned attitude was shared by other travelers who said they expected delays after seeing long lines over the last holiday weekend.
On Easter, passengers had to wait up to 14 hours.
A couple in line today told Sky News that they had traveled half a mile in 35 minutes.
They said they left 3 hours instead of 90 minutes but still missed the check-in time.
0:40 Dover traffic jam
RAC said it was expecting its busiest weekend since pre-pandemic.
“Leaving early in the morning or delaying travel until the evening is the best way to avoid inevitable delays,” spokesman Rod Dennis said.
Holidaymakers face long lines, but those staying home over the long weekend can enjoy the hottest weather of the year.
Southeast Wales and around the Bristol Channel will enjoy the best weather with highs of 24C on Saturday and Sunday.
Other parts of the UK will see temperatures rise into the late teens to early 20s.
Dry, sunny weather is expected for the most part with little to no rain until mid next week.
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