It's only happened to me a couple of times, when travelling by road to Europe.
That's when the roads to Dover get blocked with lorries because of some kind of problem with the tunnel and ferries. I seem to remember that both occasions were because of worker action, which I think was on the French side of the tunnel.
I've tried plan B when this happens too. That's where a different route is sought. But it suffers the same phenomenon as M25 traffic jams. The alternative routes fill up with traffic trying to avoid the main congestion, so that the end effect is that it takes just as long on an alternative routing.
I've had a similar problem getting back by ferry, around Christmas time. I was travelling via Ostend. The port was jammed. I booked into quayside hotel which meant I could bypass the last part of the queues. No I couldn't get onto the ferries that evening, but was able to sidle out early the next day and bypass the still huge queue to get straight into the boat.
Fortunately the government has some work streams ready to deal with this for the period from next April. There's 18 work streams actually, which cover all the main forms of transport. Air, road, sea, vehicles, rail and infrastructure (so called cross cutting).
The Department for Transport consider that the work to support EU Exit represents a significant and complex challenge. That's once they know which of the options will apply.
They are already reporting their progress although their internal assessments of progress are, in most instances, more cautious than the progress it reports to the Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU).
There's also some inconsistencies between reporting systems which makes it harder for senior managers and central government to gain a consistent picture of progress.
It's not my opinion here, it's what the National Audit Office (NAO) concludes in the November 2018 Commons Briefing Paper.
This work is on 18 of the 314 work streams related to exiting the EU. It suggests to me that there might now be need for greater urgency. Here's the transport topic areas:
- Aviation: air traffic management systems; the air service agreement with the EU; future access to the European Aviation Safety Agency; air service agreements with other countries; the future of security regimes; and UK participation in the EU- wide emissions trading scheme.
- Roads: rights for UK private motorists to drive in the EU; rights for UK hauliers to carry goods in the EU; rights for UK bus and coach companies to carry passengers in the EU; and motor insurance and frictionless travel to the Green Card free zone.
- Maritime: the Marine Equipment Directive; and future access to the European Maritime Safety Agency
- Vehicles: vehicle type approval for manufacturers; and emissions and manufacturers’ CO2 targets
- Rail: ongoing recognition of documentation of operators and drivers to support continuation of cross-border rail services.
- Cross-Cutting: funding for projects in the Connecting Europe Facility, an EU-funding instrument that targets infrastructure investment; Operation Stack, the plans to manage traffic congestion on the M20 motorway; and transport infrastructure at the border.
This reminds me of that project manager dilemma about the rate of absorption of new staff into a programme. Too many at once and nothing happens. Yet, says the NAO, the Department needs to recruit more people to support the next phase of discussions. Considerable work still needs to be completed on contingency preparations and to significantly strengthen its capacity to manage the overall programme.
I know I shouldn't really be diving into these reports of progress, but it seems to be a way to gauge the state of overall progress, away from the banalities of the TV politicians.
It smacks of the 'driving to Calais' conundrum. I've done this route plenty of times, so know what can go wrong. Start at, say, St Tropez or Nice and calculate the time to reach Calais. Google says it's about 10h45m. That's an average speed of 110kph. I use the slower 80kph/50mph as my version. That's about 14h30m.
Now add a couple of traffic jams. Like today. One inside St Tropez. 30 minutes lost. One outside St Tropez. 45 minutes lost. A major roadworks and broken down car around Lyon. Another hour lost. Then, straightforward driving to Dijon, where its just busy traffic, so 45 minutes at 30 kph. And a similar holdup around Reims.
What has that done to the journey average speed? Nothing much to begin with, but the problems accumulate as you get closer to Calais and have less time to make up any discrepancy.
That's the project plan compression we are witnessing now for these varied Departments. Not enough time and throwing people at it won't work.
'Here's one I prepared earlier,' as a few might say. Others might just be looking for a way out of the whole situation.