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Friday, September 29, 2023

UK travel chaos as passport e-gate failure causes delays at British airports

Failures with the passport e-gate system at UK airports is causing long delays for those arriving in the country as a bank holiday getaway gets under way.

Travellers have described on social media queues of several hours at a number of airports including London Heathrow and Gatwick as arrivals need to have their passports checked by hand rather than the automated machines.

The problems come as millions are expected to take to the roads and public transport this weekend.

One traveller arriving at Heathrow posted on Twitter: “Just landed to scenes of utter chaos. 2 hour queues just to get to the real queue. Gates broken.”

Another passenger at Gatwick described the situation as an “utter joke”.

A Gatwick Airport spokesman said the problem started on Friday evening but queues had eased on Saturday morning.

He said: “Some passengers may experience delays at immigration due to a nationwide issue with UK Border Force e-gates.

“Our staff are working with UK Border Force – who operate passport control including the e-gates – to provide assistance to passengers where necessary.”

Heathrow Airport posted on Twitter: “We are aware of a nationwide issue impacting the eGates, which are operated by Border Force.

“This issue is impacting a number of ports of entry and is not Heathrow specific.

“Our teams are working closely with Border Force to help resolve the problem as quickly as possible and we have additional colleagues on hand to manage queues and provide passenger welfare. We apologise for any impact this is having to passenger journeys.”

A UK Home Office spokeswoman said that the Border Force had put in place “robust plans” to deploy officers to minimise disruption and wait times.

The automated e-gate system is available for British citizens aged over 12 and those from the EU, as well as people from several other countries including Australia, Canada, the US, Japan and New Zealand.

The spokeswoman said: “We are aware of a nationwide border system issue affecting arrivals into the UK.

“We are working to resolve the issue as soon as possible and are liaising with port operators and airlines to minimise disruption for travellers.”

The problems come after British Airways had to cancel 175 flights following an IT failure on Thursday and Friday.

Meanwhile, long queues have been experienced at the UK’s main passenger ferry port in Dover, which has also experienced IT problems.

The Port of Dover posted on Twitter: “Thank you for your patience as we catch up from earlier IT issues at border control, which have been resolved. Traffic now processing well through border. Average waiting times for cars and coaches now 90 mins.”

The RAC estimated that drivers across the UK will embark on 19.2 million leisure car trips between Friday and Monday making it the busiest late May bank holiday since 2019.

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Transport data company Inrix warned that journeys on some stretches of the M25 will take up to three times longer than normal.

They include clockwise from Junction 23 for Hatfield to Junction 28 for Chelmsford, and anticlockwise towards the Dartford Crossing.

Long delays are also expected on the M5 in Somerset and the M6 in Cheshire and Greater Manchester.

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