Crossing the Channel? All you need to know

Throughout the summer, migrant activity and strikes by French workers have disrupted cross channel services.

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This has caused traffic chaos around the UK ports of Dover and Folkestone, triggering delays for those trying to cross the Channel by ferry or on Eurostar and Eurotunnel services through the Channel Tunnel.

Kent Police have several times implemented Operation Stack, effectively turning parts of the M20 into a lorry park and diverting motorists onto smaller roads.

I’m driving to Europe – what’s the best advice?

Operators are advising travellers to allow plenty of time for their journey.

Operation Stack is not currently in force, but you can check the latest situation on the Kent Police website or Highways England.

Also check with your ferry or train company about any disruption to particular services. Most have websites that provide up to date information.

Can I claim if my journey is disrupted?

As far as travel insurance is concerned, you wouldn’t be able to claim unless you were delayed by at least 12 hours and either suffered a financial loss (such as not getting to a hotel in time) or incurred extra expense (such as booking another journey).

It’s also worth bearing in mind that you cannot claim on your insurance if you decide to postpone or cancel your holiday because you don’t fancy being stuck in a queue or because you fear for your safety.

If there is no official Government advice about avoiding a country or region – and there is none regarding Calais – then your insurance won’t refund the cost of cancellation.

What about travel operators?

The ferry and train operators have worked hard to put passengers on alternative crossings if a connection has been missed, so insurance policies have not been called into play.

Consumer law dictates that, if you are at the ferry or port terminal and your ferry is delayed for more than 90 minutes, you should be offered the choice between an alternative sailing at the earliest opportunity at no additional cost, and reimbursement of the ticket price within seven days.

Both P&O and DFDS, the big ferry companies, have stuck to the rules during the Calais crisis and attempted to minimise disruption to holiday plans.

What about compensation?

The issue of compensation for a delayed ferry is a bit more tricky.

You are entitled to compensation of 25% of your ticket price in certain circumstances. But compensation is only paid if the journey lasts for more than four hours, so it would not apply to a cross channel sailing from Dover to Calais.

Ferry operators can also dodge compensation if the crossing was hindered by “extraordinary and unavoidable circumstances”, which pretty much covers the latest disruption. 

Rail passengers are protected by European law, too. Your rights depend to a large extent on whether the train is cancelled or delayed – and the length of any delay.

Eurostar’s compensation package states that, if you arrive at the station and the train is delayed by two hours, you are entitled to a free return journey or a 50% refund if you have a one-way ticket (25% if your original booking was a return).

Eurotunnel is not covered by either the rail passenger rules, or by the laws that govern ferry operators.

If you suffer a delay on a Eurotunnel service, keep details of the times and circumstances, and any costs incurred, then contact the company to discuss compensation.

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