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Is Eurotunnel ever not poo-poo from Calais?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
It's a shame that Calais -> Folkestone isn't as efficient as Folkestone -> Calais. Typically make three return trips on Eurotunnel per year and very rarely have any delays when travelling to France; 30 or 40 minutes probably being the longest delay but mostly depart on time or get put on an earlier train. This is always for 7am - 8am departures, and when there is a delay it is caused by technical issues not the infrastructure being unable to cope with volume of traffic.

Returning to the UK (departures 4pm to 6pm) used to be just as smooth until about five or six years ago, when there was a sudden increase in delays getting through UK Immigration. Nothing else seemed to change that I could see, so the three hour queue I once experienced getting in to the Eurotunnel Terminal was entirely caused by insufficient capacity to deal with whatever rule change UK Border Force introduced. Since then the number of passport inspection points has more or less doubled, but I've never had less than a 30 minute queue to get through UK Immigration and often 45 minutes or more. Now I build that delay in to my timetable, which is a PITA but at least I don't get stressed by the worry of missing my departure time.

What I'm confused by is the difference in Immigration infrastructure between Folkestone and Calais. At Folksestone UK Immigration has four inspection points, France the same but generally it's only two windows open at a time. Passport checks seems the same, with UK Border Force scanning my passport, France waving me through. The number of inspection points in Calais is significantly greater, maybe 15 windows for UK Border Force, often all in operation. I've had my car swabbed for explosives four or five times at Folkestone, never at Calais. I assume the traffic volume is broad similar in both directions, so are the queues I always experience in Calais a result of difference in time of day, or some other reason? If you travel to France with a late afternoon departure from Folkestone are there similar queues there?
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Markymark29 wrote:
Why Eurotunnel are so poor operationally beats me, they clearly massively overbook to maximise revenues at peak times rather than being sensible and offerring deals for people to cross at non-peak times and therefore get a wider revenue spread, and so can't check in such volumes of cars at peak times, I dont see why they can't use ANPR for check in and open more border patrol windows, total farce, and the facilities at both sides are disgraceful, we wont be using it again until they sort themselves out, not holding my breath either.....

I'm not sure they had overbooked, I would guess that the trains were leaving mostly empty. My booking was for a time that should have been off-peak.

They do use ANPR for checkin, the delays are due to the border controls. I obviously didn't see French TV last night but the reason for the similar "Operation Zéle" at Chambery airport a few weeks ago was that the Douanes want more money to be spent on extra people and more lanes. There are fewer passport lanes than at the ferry port.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@andy1234, Hull to Rotterdam return overnight ferry if taking car, works well for us for last few car trips - the A1/ A14/ M11 with current longterm roadworks and especially hassle around M25 also factored in makes driving to Kent ports from the NEast of UK a PITA especially if we've been working all week which we frequently have, arriving in resort tired isn't much fun. Next season all trips via Swiss flights Manchester to ZRH and train, more frugal packing is required though, and we miss the roadtrips.

We used to drive almost every holiday but the hassle of getting across the channel and rising fuel/ crossing costs make it increasingly a less attractive proposition.
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Eurotunnel Calais @ 08:00 Sunday pretty clear, maybe 20-30 mins from zero queue check in to through passport control. We have a long drive in the UK so stayed overnight in Calais on Saturday night.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I've never used Eurotunnel, but reading this it seems a lot like flying to a UK airport. Generally at least a 30 minute queue to go through passport control, regardless of whether you use the automatic gates or not.

All of these people who voted for Brexit on the basis that the UK needs to 'close its borders' clearly have never been anywhere. rolling eyes
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@queenie pretty please, which airports and when are you flying to the UK? The majority of my trips through Gatwick/Bristol are quite swift.
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@SnoodlesMcFlude, normally Stanstead. It's pants. The journey back is horrid too. Drop hire car off, get a bus to the terminal, queue through security, take an unpleasant 20-minute walk through a packed shopping precinct, get a train, more walking, finally arrive at aircraft. 2 hours is often not enough.
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@Markymark29, How do you find the costs of the Hull ferries? Always seems very high to me vs. driving to Folkestone from near Edinburgh.
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Worth saying that UK/French customs are largely outside control of Eurotunnel - so if they are being thorough/working to rule there is very little Eurotunnel can do to get people through.

I do think Eurotunnel have messed up in France - surely they would be better off getting people checked in and assigned a Letter, then put them in the holding pens in Letter order. As it stands it is just a lottery whether you get your train or not.

Of course they used to operate the same as UK, with check-in then holding in terminal area, with letters called through in order - queue jump attempts turned back. Which they they scrapped to get people to use the terminal more rolling eyes

Overall it works and you have to live with it and accept will be busy at peak times
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@Matt1959, Yes they aren't cheap but if you book them say 12 months in advance they are pretty sensible. We just go with the basic cabin and take a picnic breakfast and snack evening meal. Generally about £350-400 return but if you compare that with the cost of the tunnel and an additional 600 miles fuel its not far out, plus you've got effectively a floating hotel room stopover cost thrown in on both ways (not the Ritz but its a bed) so its about the same. We used to try drive overnight, and have done it many times but by the time you arrive in resort mid morning you're hugely tired and waste the Saturday anyway just mooching about ime. The other good thing is they go to Rotterdam not Calais so the roads through Holland are good rather than northern French and Belgian motorways that arent great, and it knocks about 2 hours off the journey, we travel down the Rhine towards Stuttgart for Austria, not sure how much use it would be if you were driving down to French resorts, probably to far east?

As mentioned above though we've binned car travel for a while though, Swiss flights include FOC ski carriage and train transfers are cheap if booked well in advance too.
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"and train transfers are cheap if booked well in advance too."

??? Geneva to Wengen £134.92 return! Is there a reduction for booking early? What is the fare called?
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Must admit I'm in the ferry club after several bad experiences on the tunnel. Once got there 0430 on a Sunday morning thinking I'd try and get an earlier train but queued for 4 hours just to get to passport control and barely made our booked time; after that we've always taken the ferry, had a break, had something to eat. It's a totally different experience especially at peak times. My wife uses the tunnel a lot for work and out of holiday season goes straight through on flexi with no problems so it seems a peak period issue rather than all the time.
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@dw832, we go Zürich to St Anton about £50 pp return via OEBB, I’ve no experience of SBB but can’t imagine they’re cheap....once into CH-land we get out ASAP it’s not a cheap place to be!
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Just a thought - if you want to create a "hostile environment" for people to come into your country then it would be a good idea to show that you are doing this to your own population. What better way than make passport control appear very slow and through.

I think most of my problems are due to using the tunnel at very off peak times - like 4 in the morning - when the trains are often cancelled. Since I've started using peak time crossings I have had far fewer delays.

The overall crossing time for the ferries is not much different than that for the tunnel and they are a little bit cheeper, but they do not readily offer the flexibility of the departure window that the tunnel operates. This is fine if you can predict exactly when you are going to get to the port, but with the M25 on one side and a 600 mile drive on the other side this is very difficult to get right. Hence I usually use the tunnel.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
queenie pretty please wrote:
I've never used Eurotunnel, but reading this it seems a lot like flying to a UK airport. Generally at least a 30 minute queue to go through passport control, regardless of whether you use the automatic gates or not.


Departing from Folkestone at the Eurotunnel terminal I've never had more than a couple of minutes to get through UK and French border control. Arriving at Heathrow Terminal 5 is the same for the last couple of years since they switched all UK/EU passport holders to the e-gates. Rarely more than one of two people in front of me, get through in about four minutes. Works just the way you'd want it to.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@Boris, I've never had to wait in a holding pen of any description. I know they exist but have never had to use one. We check in, go through customs and border control, and then park at terminal for a short while before being called to board, just as it used to be.This is on a Sunday usually (sometimes Saturday) just after 2pm.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Markymark29 wrote:
@Matt1959, Yes they aren't cheap but if you book them say 12 months in advance they are pretty sensible. We just go with the basic cabin and take a picnic breakfast and snack evening meal. Generally about £350-400 return but if you compare that with the cost of the tunnel and an additional 600 miles fuel its not far out, plus you've got effectively a floating hotel room stopover cost thrown in on both ways (not the Ritz but its a bed) so its about the same. We used to try drive overnight, and have done it many times but by the time you arrive in resort mid morning you're hugely tired and waste the Saturday anyway just mooching about ime. The other good thing is they go to Rotterdam not Calais so the roads through Holland are good rather than northern French and Belgian motorways that arent great, and it knocks about 2 hours off the journey, we travel down the Rhine towards Stuttgart for Austria, not sure how much use it would be if you were driving down to French resorts, probably to far east?
.
We've just booked for 8 weeks time. Last year we booked months in advance and got the prices you hint at. This time, for a standard car and a double inside cabin it came out at an eye watering £597.00

There are 2 cars and 4 people, but we all agreed that we would rather the whopping extra amount (about £950 between us) the co via Dover from the NE. It does save us 2 night accommodation plus the worry of the bikes.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Markymark29 wrote:
@Matt1959, Yes they aren't cheap but if you book them say 12 months in advance they are pretty sensible. We just go with the basic cabin and take a picnic breakfast and snack evening meal. Generally about £350-400 return but if you compare that with the cost of the tunnel and an additional 600 miles fuel its not far out, plus you've got effectively a floating hotel room stopover cost thrown in on both ways (not the Ritz but its a bed) so its about the same. We used to try drive overnight, and have done it many times but by the time you arrive in resort mid morning you're hugely tired and waste the Saturday anyway just mooching about ime. The other good thing is they go to Rotterdam not Calais so the roads through Holland are good rather than northern French and Belgian motorways that arent great, and it knocks about 2 hours off the journey, we travel down the Rhine towards Stuttgart for Austria, not sure how much use it would be if you were driving down to French resorts, probably to far east?
.
We've just booked for 8 weeks time. Last year we booked months in advance and got the prices you hint at. This time, for a standard car and a double inside cabin it came out at an eye watering £597.00

There are 2 cars and 4 people, but we all agreed that we would rather the whopping extra amount (about £950 between us) the co via Dover from the NE. It does save us 2 night accommodation plus the worry of the bikes.
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@Hells Bells, Only been in it once - Saturday evening of Feb half-term. Was completely deserted once past customs - they use it to smooth the traffic through customs and (to be fair) it gives somewhere to wait and use loos, grab a coffee rather than just sitting in long queue
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Used it a lot and only ever had a delay once. Coming back this year there was a French border work to rule. Cost us about an hour. I mainly prefer it for the flexibility, turn up late, turn up early never an issue.
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@Frosty the Snowman, Yeah I saw those prices recently, we are doing a 5 night end August trip for walking/ MTB to Lech and I went onto P&O website to look at crossing options a few weeks ago and couldnt believe their prices. Deffo wasnt going to do Eurotunnel over bank holidays so we've opted to fly Lufthansa MAN/ MUC and we'll hire a car and bikes. Gutted I cant take our bikes but there comes a point where its just not viable to take them.

One thing, maybe worth considering - we have taken our bikes last 2 summers with P&O Hull/ Rotterdam on each occasion we've ended up down the bowels of the ship with the container lorries and RV's/ coaches etc, bikes on top so high vehicle - one time we got stuck at the back and it took an eternity to unload, last year we bought priority boarding and best £10 ever spent, put us on the ramp at the front of all the lorries and we were first off the ship, saved us at least an hour, i'd highly recommend buying this. One other thing - The Dutch police also nowadays breathalise 100% of drivers coming off the ship at passport control.
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Bit of a curve ball this but ime a large percentage of the cars containing people who snarl up the Eurotunnel check in seem to be families and couples who appear to have been taking a short hop over La Manche for a weekend or 2-3 day trip and staying locally, given by the relatively small number of UK registered cars seen say east of Brussels and/ or south of say Rheims......i've often throught that a half way house premium ticket where people who dont want to pay for a Flexiticket but would pay say £20 e/way for a priority boarding ticket if you could prove you'd travelled say 300 mile trip to get to Calais would work and at least keep "proper" distance travellers rather than say day/ weekend trippers on side......anyone agree, probably impossible to administer though.....?
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Markymark29 wrote:
... and at least keep "proper" distance travellers rather than say day/ weekend trippers on side...
Surely a traveller is a traveller? Eurotunnel have a priority scheme if you want to beat the queues. Seems a bit odd to mark a customer as less entitled to a cheap perk just because you live a bit closer.
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@rob@rar, Not so if you are prepared to pay a bit more, ie £20 e/w rather than the £100+ of flexi (which is a joke AFIAC). It just seems to me it's got a high percentage of its travellers who nowadays are just jumping across and staying local, maybe using Tesco vouchers etc (Kent, London and home counties reg plates) and me for one isn't prepared to get messed about anymore by ET so i'll travel a different way. Seems a strange business model where they spend hundreds of £m on a tunnel that the operators can't operate efficiently, and frequent travellers (like say myself who used to use it 10x annually) are so disillusioned that they now use other means because they are such hassle to deal with, their poor facilities notwithstanding, the fact that they cant stick to a timetable and honour the bookings made are pretty pathetic. I see you live in London, probably different for you, but when i've driven 9-10 hours from the Alps, with a minimum 4 hour, more likely longer UK journey in front of me my tolerance levels aren't brilliant.
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Quote:

given by the relatively small number of UK registered cars seen say east of Brussels and/ or south of say Rheims......

perhaps because they are going north of Brussels or say to Paris, or Spain or perhaps someone on the thousands and thousands of roads eleswhere in continental europe


Last edited by Ski the Net with snowHeads on Mon 15-04-19 13:11; edited 1 time in total
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Markymark29 wrote:
@rob@rar, Not so if you are prepared to pay a bit more, ie £20 e/w rather than the £100+ of flexi (which is a joke AFIAC). It just seems to me it's got a high percentage of its travellers who nowadays are just jumping across and staying local, maybe using Tesco vouchers etc (Kent, London and home counties reg plates) and me for one isn't prepared to get messed about anymore by ET so i'll travel a different way. Seems a strange business model where they spend hundreds of £m on a tunnel that the operators can't operate efficiently, and frequent travellers (like say myself who used to use it 10x annually) are so disillusioned that they now use other means because they are such hassle to deal with, their poor facilities notwithstanding, the fact that they cant stick to a timetable and honour the bookings made are pretty pathetic. I see you live in London, probably different for you, but when i've driven 9-10 hours from the Alps, with a minimum 4 hour, more likely longer UK journey in front of me my tolerance levels aren't brilliant.
I'd be happy to pay an extra £20 to avoid a queue. After a 10 hour drive from the Alps the last thing I want to do is wait for an unnecessary queue to get through UK border control. Like you I'm not prepared to pay the premium for FlexiTickets, but getting the main benefit of that scheme for a relatively small amount of money seems like a great idea. Wonder if BA will do something similar so I can travel in the Club cabin by paying a little bit extra if I promise not to use the airport lounge?

Just out of interest, how do you identify a registration plate of a car based in London or Home Counties?
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
I agree, let’s make Eurotunnel super easy for folk like me who have a big super fast 4 wheel drive car, winter tyres, a beautifully sculpted low profile roof box, snow chains in the boot, a peage doofer on the windscreen and a travel distance of >400 miles.

Only people who marvel at my superbly equipped car and I at theirs are allowed in my section of the train so we can exchange Autoroute war stories about extreme weather, traffic delays and Belgian drivers.

Everyone else can get the ferry.

(This post wasn’t directed at anything or anyone in particular I just found the idea amusing and obviously the post was very tongue in cheek).
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So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Can see the thinking but afraid if you want flexibility - book the flexiplus tickets

It's not difficult to work out when there's likely to be queues and avoid them - as an example have a Sat night in France and come home early Sunday. Although appreciate not always possible.

I've had delays, but in 20 odd years of using it 2/3 times a year never more than a couple of hours - take a deep breath, count to 10 and not let it bother me - is my approach now
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You know it makes sense.
@sasha320, as was mine, I know it'll never happen, however if ET continue to take bookings based on timings they can't honour surely they need to do something, or like me folks will vote with their feet?

Most other means of travel in the world I can think of have a 1st and 2nd class, or business class option.....I dont want any frills all I want id access to the timed slot I booked, they can blame UKBC or French customs checks all they like but it's ET my contract would be with, I dont see Easyjet, BA, Lufthansa etc blaming others for their failure to stick to timetables, they just get on and do it, same principle applies to ET in my view.

@rob@rar, L, G, K etc.....OK I know its not entirely accurate people do move about, I get that but its not a bad guess to suggest people with L prefix plates with West Ham or Crystal Palace stickers all over the back windows at 18.00 on a Sunday evening on a school night with a car full of kids don't normally live in Leeds, Birmingham or Manchester.
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Markymark29 wrote:
...if ET continue to take bookings based on timings they can't honour surely they need to do something, or like me folks will vote with their feet?
Agree. I wonder how much pressure Eurotunnel is putting on the UK government to get Border Control delays at Calais sorted? That seems to be where the majority of the problems are.

Markymark29 wrote:
@rob@rar, L, G, K etc.....OK I know its not entirely accurate people do move about, I get that but its not a bad guess to suggest people with L prefix plates with West Ham or Crystal Palace stickers all over the back windows at 18.00 on a Sunday evening on a school night with a car full of kids don't normally live in Leeds, Birmingham or Manchester.

http://nice-reg.co.uk/info/area-of-issue-codes-for-classic-suffix-and-prefix-number-plates.html
I thought that geographical registration codes had stopped being used? Your link suggests this happened in 2001. My number plate begins with the code for West Bromwich, but it was registered by a dealer in Essex. That aside, giving priority to customers because they live a long way away, penalising customers who live close seems bonkers to me. There's already a priority scheme for those who are prepared to pay for it, and I think you could argue the case for a benefit for those customers who are frequent travellers in addition to cheaper prices for their standard tickets (perhaps the option to upgrade to Flexi for a chaperons price than normal). But ushering people through because they can provide an address more than four hours onward travel time will lead to unnecessary resentment, IMO. The money I spend on buying a Eurostar ticket is just as good as the money that someone else spends, regardless of whether I live 90 minutes from the terminal or 9 hours from the terminal.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Quote:

continue to take bookings based on timings

Although I think they do honour the timings - just you don't happen to be on that train as you're queuing to get through customs.

I understand from respected SH (who knows these things) that there is an agreement in place between ET and customs about average time to process.
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@rob@rar, with respect I think you’ve misconstrued what I was referring to? My point was that if someone could pay a small premium to get a quicker check in and thus enable an on time departure then this MAY mean that local day/ weekend trippers who may not be so time critical could take a normal crossing, eg as at present. The Flexi is a rip off imv but a quicker boarding option (like with say EJ or Ryanair) might work, and who knows earn ET more revenue in the process....that’s all.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Markymark29 wrote:
@rob@rar, with respect I think you’ve misconstrued what I was referring to? My point was that if someone could pay a small premium to get a quicker check in and thus enable an on time departure then this MAY mean that local day/ weekend trippers who may not be so time critical could take a normal crossing, eg as at present. The Flexi is a rip off imv but a quicker boarding option (like with say EJ or Ryanair) might work, and who knows earn ET more revenue in the process....that’s all.
No, I understand what you are advocating, I simply disagree with it if you are suggesting that "speedy boarding" should be restricted to people who can provide an address above a certain distance away. You might think that Flexi is a rip-off (I agree with you), but it provides the function you would like to see even if the price is not one you are happy to pay (ditto).
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@rob@rar, @Markymark29, Agree with Rob. It's just a complete non-starter. Besides, you seem to be advocating it for the French side? So how do you prove how far from Calais you will be staying prior to purchasing a ticket? Oh look, here's my booking.com reservation in Naples, get us on first will you, thanks.
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Sounds bizzare to me. If I am planning a short break to Le Touquet , the last thing I want is a delay because there's loads of folks turned up who are driving to St Tropez.
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@Hells Bells, For Le Touquet just fly from Lydd ( Flight time is 15 mins ).
Less time than it takes you to get a coffee at Cheriton. Smile
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@WindOfChange, can't take the dogs though wink
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@WindOfChange, Been there done that Very Happy
Every time I tell anyone that the first time our family went on holiday to France we flew with the car from Lydd to Le Touquet no-one believes me until I tell the to view the beginning of the Morecombe and Wise film "That Riviera Touch" it certainly was a good way to cross the channel.

If anyone's interested link to Le Touquet airport scene in the film
[url=]http://youtube.com/v/gPP3_mCocM0?t=361[/url]
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@Timc, Seen in Goldfinger too.
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johnE wrote:
The overall crossing time for the ferries is not much different than that for the tunnel and they are a little bit cheeper, but they do not readily offer the flexibility of the departure window that the tunnel operates. This is fine if you can predict exactly when you are going to get to the port, but with the M25 on one side and a 600 mile drive on the other side this is very difficult to get right. Hence I usually use the tunnel.


John - if you're using the frequent traveller ferry tickets with P&O (3 return trips per year) the tickets are issued as flexible tickets. You book each crossing 24 hours in advance but they really don't seem to care when you actually turn up, and this has been emphasised to me on the phone when making bookings on several occasions.
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