With the migrant crisis at Calais is showing little sign of easing , a leading transport group this week warned that the crisis could derail Britain’s fragile economic recovery.
To prevent migrants from breaking into UK-bound trains, Eurotunnel has been forced to scrap nighttime services, which is costing British businesses hundreds of millions of pounds.
Chris McRae, Head of Policy at the Freight Transport Association (FTA) said that the migrant crisis is “crippling” British business.
“It's a very serious situation,” he said. “You've got a vulnerable market and just when there was potential for it to grow then we've suddenly got this crisis.”
“One of our operators told us every night the Calais freight yard has to be closed and trains suspended. Eurotunnel are trying to plan routes through the day when they are available, but clearly it's hurting UK exports and supply chains.”
“This is a desperate crisis and a very, very serious issue. It's going to directly affect and damage the UK economy.”
“It does seriously hurt exports and the revenue to the British exchequer. This can’t be allowed to continue.”
British exporters are particularly reliant on the channel tunnel, which carries nearly 60,000 tonnes of freight every day, however one large firm told the Express.co.uk that only a fifth of all deliveries through the tunnel are now successful.
With the migrant crisis at Calais showing little sign of easing, British business are being forced to find alternative and more expensive ways to transport their goods to the continent.
This has had knock-on effects at Calais ferry port, which has experienced chaos - recently compounded by strike action from My Ferry Link workers due to non-migrant related issues.
The below video shows workers setting fire to tyres in an attempt to block off access to the ferry port last Friday, which caused further gridlock on both sides of the channel.
Several manufacturing businesses, particularly car manufacturers have turned to air-freight companies out of desperation, but this approach has been labelled “unsustainable”.
These firms risk costly disruptions to production if they do not get their parts on time and a spokesman for Rolls Royce said: “We have experienced disruption to our production. It’s a challenge, it’s disruptive and we’d rather it wasn’t happening.”
The problems at Calais have worsened in recent days as migrants have changed tactics, with thousands attempting to storm the Channel Tunnel entrance each night in large numbers.
In Kent, Operation Stack - where parts of the M20 are shut down to deal with queuing lorries - was in place all of last week, adding to delays on the roads around Dover.The Freight Transport Association has estimated that the traffic delays are costing the Britain’s road freight industry £750,000 a day.
To ease congestion at Calais, the government is looking at whether spare capacity can be used at different crossings. Officials have identified ports at Hull, Portsmouth and Plymouth as potential candidates.
However, the FTA has said that the government needs to come up with longer-term solutions. A spokesperson said: “It is an additional cost for hauliers to drive to other ports. If the truck drives another 40 or 50 miles then that adds to costs.”
Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon has warned that the disruption is having a damaging effect on the Scottish seafood sector and also called for a longer-term solution.
According to the BBC, the number of lorry drivers fined for bringing illegal immigrants into Britain has tripled in three years, with more than 3,300 fines were issued by UK Border Force staff in 2014-15, up from 2,177 in 2013-14.
It is now estimated that hauliers owe £4m in fines, which can be as much as £2,000 per migrant and can be levied against both drivers and their employers.
Hauliers have said the system is unfair, however the Home Office has responded by saying that many of the lorries did not have “basic standards of security”.
Speaking to the BBC, Joanne Witheford, a specialist road transport lawyer said: “We asked UK Border Force if there was going to be any leniency shown to drivers in the present situation.”
“They have told us it is 'business as usual’, but the situation is anything but usual,” she adds.
Ms Whitheford has called for immunity for drivers who have taken all reasonable precautions and alerted UK Border Force officials to any suspicions they have.
Has your business been affected by the migrant crisis? What do you think needs to be done about it? Leave your opinions in the comments section below:
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