At her car-hire booth at Dover's arrivals terminal, where she was helping some of the hundreds of Land Travel clients stranded for hours yesterday, Lesley Kiely said: 'The collapse doesn't surprise me. I went on a Land Travel weekend break to Amsterdam four years ago. The hotel was 50 miles from the city, the courier didn't change her clothes for days, and there was only one driver so he had to fiddle his tachograph.'
Stewart Martin, 30, a coach driver from Abingdon, worked with the firm until last year. He said: 'Some of their charges were daylight robbery. I went with a party to Austria. The company's courier was charging pounds 18 for day excursions and pounds 8 to cash cheques. In the end I insisted on taking the passengers on a trip for free but the courier said no. We ended up kicking him off the bus. He was totally unskilled and unqualified, and unsociable.'
Some of the returning clients said their trips had been cheap but not good value. Fred Last, 56, a caretaker from York, said: 'We stayed in a hotel in Austria which was still being renovated. It had earwigs, cockroaches and mice.'
The Land Travel holidaymakers were stranded after coach drivers either refused to take them any further or demanded money to continue.
A 47-strong party from the Midlands and a party of 52 Chinese engineering students from Sheffield University, which included a pregnant woman and children as young as 10 months, were stuck at the docks for up to six hours.
Dr Quan-Min Zhu, 37, who led the students, said: 'We had to pay in total Fr7,650 (pounds 820) for the ferry. Now it looks as if we have to pay another pounds 600 for the coach to Sheffield. Even our coach in France broke down 40 kilometres from Calais.'
Coach drivers had agreed to take passengers as far as Dover out of goodwill - but no further. Local port officials and coach agents mounted a haphazard rescue operation.