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Pembrokeshire bus company avoids 18 hour passport delay in Saturday’s Dover backlog

Shon, Catrin and their seven-week old daughter after their bus arrived in Venice

A Pembrokeshire bus company director is being hailed a hero after avoiding one of the worst passport delays in living history.

When Shon Rees arrived at Dover port on Saturday morning, he was told that his passengers, many of whom were pensioners, could expect delays of up to 18 hours as they waited to board the ferry for their holiday in Lido di Jesolo, near Venice.

“Another of our coaches had arrived in Dover the previous day, which was Friday, and the driver contacted me to say that the delays were massive,” Shon told The Herald.

“I genuinely thought that by the time we’d arrive the following day, the backlog would have improved.  But if anything, things had got even worse.”

Shon was told by port staff that his bus would have to wait up to eight hours before being called into the holding pen and would then have to wait between five and six hours before being called to the port.  They would then have to wait a further five hours before being able to eventually board the ferry.

“And what threw another spanner in the works was that the passengers then faced a five hour journey on the other side, to get to their hotel,” continued Shon.  “But as the driver, I would require a nine hour break for legal reasons.”

Shon had come well-prepared for imminent delays having stocked up with bars of chocolates as well as telling his passengers to buy sandwiches to keep them going.

But as he was made aware of the full extent of the delays, he became increasingly concerned for his passengers’ welfare.

This was when Shon decided to drive them to nearby Canterbury, enabling them to stretch their legs and have something to eat.

But five minutes after reaching the coach park, he received a call from P&O telling them that there was now a space for them in the holding pen.

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“My wife, Catrin, and I started to consider this whole thing generically because at the end of the day, we’re a company that prides itself on providing quality holidays for our customers. We knew that even though we had a place in the holding pen, we’d still face very long delays before being eventually able to sail.

“And so we decided to switch to Stena Line and sail from Harwick to Holland”.

Shon managed to secure an overnight crossing which meant that when he and his passengers hit the road at 8am on Sunday morning, they’d had dinner the night before, a good night’s sleep and breakfast.  They then spent the day travelling to their destination and finally arrived at 9.30 pm.

“In all the time I’ve been working for Midway Motors, I’ve never encountered delays quite as severe as this one,” he said.

“Yes, the poor weather played a part in the delays this weekend, but at the end of the day it was the French customs process that just weren’t playing ball.  The whole passport process should have been done pretty swiftly but this just didn’t happen.”

Meanwhile Shon, Catrin and their happy coachload of passengers can now look forward to a well-deserved visit to Lido di Jesolo and Venice.

“Catrin and I decided to bring our seven-week-old baby on this trip so this will be her very first visit to Europe, ” laughed Shon.  “And judging by the way things have gone, she may decide to never leave Wales again.

“But we’re hopeful that by the time we return, the backlog will have dispersed significantly and the wait at the port will be much shorter.”