British travellers and returning holidaymakers could face chaos at UK ports and airports this summer if electronic passport gates are not reopened, industry figures have warned.
The sophisticated unmanned passport checkers are an absolute must during the high season, with thousands passing through the gates each day.
Industry figures and border officials predict queues lasting seven hours if the Government insists every arrival is manually checked as it has become necessary due to Covid.
On Friday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said all ‘passenger locator forms’ which travellers must fill in before boarding UK-bound transport would go digital, reports the MailOnline.
If the Transport Secretary's plans are followed through this would allow holidaymakers to use their passports at e-gates and avert scenes of chaos this summer.
Border guards currently face the unenviable task of checking every arrival manually. They ensure passenger locator forms are completed, a negative Covid test has been taken within the last 72 hours, and that passengers have booked either a hotel quarantine or testing package – depending on where they have travelled from.
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It is understood that around 20,000 people are still arriving in the UK each day for a variety of different reasons that are permitted by the Government.
Once the Government has confirmed a start date for the traffic light systems coming in to affect the volumes of passengers travelling could multiply many times over.
Lucy Moreton, of the Immigration Services Union, said: "If they don’t digitise the e-gates and they still require us to do 100 per cent checks, then yes the queues could potentially at busy times become even worse than they are now… Six or seven hours is not impossible."
Tim Alderslade, of Airlines UK, added: "Manual checks are time-consuming and will become increasingly challenging as passenger numbers increase, as we hope they will. This is why a fully digitalised passenger locator form is the way to go."
There are concerns that the new traffic light system could lead to a two-tiered system where those unable to afford the cost of Covid PCR tests will be priced out of travelling.
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