Drivers report delays at Portsmouth port

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QUEUES for the UK Border Agency caused Bank Holiday congestion at Portsmouth International Port.

Long delays were reported by passengers returning home at about 10pm on Monday evening.

Port manager Martin Putman said he regretted the wait suffered by some travellers, but that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) staff had done everything they could to clear the backlog.

But for Neil Coppendale, of Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, it was an unpleasant experience which he said had almost put him off sailing.

He said: ‘It is difficult in the cold light of day to depict the extreme nature of events at and after 10pm on Monday evening.

‘I have never, ever, experienced such a farcical, chaotic situation as hundreds of cars and thousands of people – including very many young children – waited for passports to be checked by an operation that for whatever reason clearly wasn’t remotely able to cope.

‘Security is one thing, utter chaos another entirely.’

Mr Putman said: ‘There was a bit of congestion, it was caused by the queues at the UK Border Agency.

‘It was a very busy weekend for us with a lot of people coming back from their holidays.

‘The UKBA did everything they could to minimise the number of people waiting.

‘I regret the delays, but on the ground everybody did all they could to alleviate the problem.’

At the end of last year Home Secretary Theresa May came under fire after she admitted border checks at the city’s port were relaxed.

Since then the checks have been tightened up and there have been calls to increase the number of UKBA staff at the port.

A Border Force spokesperson said: ‘The Government’s priority is the security of the UK border. The right checks need to be carried out to control immigration, protect against terrorism and tackle crime.

‘We maintain thorough border checks. And despite these robust border checks, the vast majority of passengers pass through immigration control quickly. However, in this particular case, although every desk was manned passengers experienced slightly longer than usual waiting times due to delayed boats arriving together.’