Eurotunnel and ferry services suspended as striking French workers close port of Calais and invade tunnel

Ferry workers block port with burning tyres and get on to tracks as migrants are seen jumping aboard slow-moving vehicles

Tom Brooks-Pollock
Wednesday 24 June 2015 12:16
Striking employees of the French company My Ferry Link, a cross-channel ferry service, stand in front of tyres set on fire as they block the access to the Channel Tunnel in Calais, northern France
Striking employees of the French company My Ferry Link, a cross-channel ferry service, stand in front of tyres set on fire as they block the access to the Channel Tunnel in Calais, northern France

British holidaymakers and lorry-drivers trying to cross the channel are being confronted with chaos thanks to a strike that had closed the port of Calais and the Channel Tunnel.

Striking French ferry workers blockaded the French port with a wall of flaming tyres, before forcing the closure of the Channel Tunnel by getting on to the tracks.

All ferries between Dover and Calais have been suspended thanks to the wildcat action by MyFerryLink workers, which started at 3.50am on Tuesday.

This afternoon, they forced the closure of the Channel Tunnel, invading the tracks. Eurostar services were subject to delays and cancellations because trains are stuck outside the tunnel, while Eurotunnel services are operating with disruptions of up to 2.5 hours following earlier closures, Sky News has reported.

Eurostar tweeted that services will resume tomorrow after engineers repair fire-damaged tracks overnight.

Traffic jams built up on both sides of the channel, with delays on other cross-channel ferry routes such as Dover to Dunkirk.

Around 600 MyFerryLink – formerly SeaFrance - workers are at risk of losing their jobs on July 2 following the decision by Eurotunnel to end its partnership with the company.

Tunnel bosses decided to abort crossings in the afternoon "for safety reasons" after strikers got on to the tracks, a spokesman for Eurotunnel said.

A spokesman for Eurostar said: "[Protesters] have broken into the tunnel and the tunnel is shut.

"As far as we know we don't have any trains in the tunnel at the moment but some are having to wait on either side of the tunnel.

"There will be delays to our services. At the moment we are extremely constrained."

Some of the 3,000 migrants camped at Calais are reportedly trying to exploit the strike by jumping on to slow-going lorries.

Drivers have been told to avoid Calais altogether, as striking workers set the road on fire and a queue of 500-600 vehicles waiting to use the Eurotunnel to get to the British side of the channel.

MyFerryLink vessels are blocking the port and preventing other services, run by P&O and DFDS Seaways, from getting through. But DFDS services from Dover to Dunkirk are still running, a spokesman for the Port of Dover said.

A striking employee sits on a tyre in front of tyres set on fire as he takes part in a blockade

He added: "We will continue to monitor the situation closely in liaison with our ferry partners and the Port of Calais in order to resume normal operations as soon as possible."

The action is expected to last until 8pm local time (7pm in Britain), a spokesman for Eurotunnel said. But officials at the Port of Dover said that delays and jams are likely to continue until later while the backlog is cleared. Customers are advised to check with their ferry companies about disruption before setting off.

Operation Stack - where freight traffic is held on the coastbound carriageway of the M20 – has been implemented as queues began to build up on approaches to the Port of Dover.

Migrants wait near the A16 highway as they try to access the Channel Tunnel in Calais (Getty)
A police officer sprays tear gas to migrants

A British lorry driver, Chris Cary, from Rochester who works for MJD Group in Dartford, posted a photo from Calais to Twitter early on Tuesday morning, showing a road apparently alight with burning tires.

Helen Deeble, chief executive of P&O Ferries, blamed the strike on a failure by Eurotunnel and DFDS to “engage constructively” with MyFerryLink staff.

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