Firms dig in for the long haul as they count cost of migrant crisis

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Intimidation, threats of violence, spoilt goods and missed deliveries resulting in spiralling costs – all things Yorkshire drivers and haulage firms are having to deal with on an almost daily basis owing to the migrant crisis in Calais.

Nidd Transport, which is based near Ripon, North Yorkshire, sends four or five trucks a night through the Eurotunnel.

Its drivers have suffered intimidation by migrants in Calais and have had goods ruined by stowaways who manage to make their way into the back of lorries, and it has had to absorb significant costs of re-routing loads through northern ports to ensure customers’ needs are filled.

Commercial director Steve Curtis said the Government had been “too slow to act”.

“This has been going on since May.

“We have been getting more and more frustrated as a company as we could see what was happening, but it didn’t seem like the authorities did,” he said.

“It’s taken since the summer holidays kicking in for it finally becoming high profile, but in the meantime, the situation has become progressively worse. The Government has been too slow to act.

“It’s affecting the morale of drivers. They are the guys stuck in long queues for hours faced with intimidation the nearer they get to Calais. Our concern is for them. We can’t have our drivers threatened.”

Nidd, which has been operating for 30 years, met with Skipton and Ripon MP Julian Smith in June, who raised concerns with Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

Mr Curtis said Conservative promises to tighten up immigration when the coalition Government came into power five years ago have failed to deal with the issue, and said the emphasis had been wrongly put on the transport industry to deal with the problem.

He said: “We have had people at the side of the road putting their fingers across their throats in attempts to intimidate drivers; jumping from bridges to get on top of the trailers, and people lying in the road to force the drivers to stop so they can surround the vehicle.

“If someone gets into the trailer, and they stop at police to check there’s a real danger that the driver would be arrested straight away. They complete all the security checks but there’s a limit as to what one person can do.”

Since the issue came to national attention, Mr Curtis said customers had been more understanding about delays, but urged European governments to work together to find a solution.

Over recent weeks, thousands of migrants have to attempted to get to the Channel Tunnel, and an estimated 5,000 migrants from countries including Syria, Libya and Eritrea are believed to be camped in and around the port. The delays put on haulage firms bringing in freight from continental Europe have a knock-on effect on other Yorkshire firms, including Keighley-based distributor Freightlink Europe.

Lesley O’Brien, head of Freightlink Europe and a member of the Road Haulage Association, said: “We are planning for goods to go on vehicles and if they don’t turn up on time or are soiled in transit because someone has gained entry to the vehicle then it has an impact on our customers.

“There are companies, especially in the South, that are thinking about shutting up shop because of this. In the North we have the small advantage of coming in from Hull but the ferry crossing is more expensive, it’s a longer route, and those costs can’t be passed on to the customer.”

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