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Miles of gridlock as stretch of M25 closed for first time ever

Simon Calder’s Travel

Motorists have suffered gridlock in Surrey as a result of the first ever closure of a stretch of the M25 since the motorway circling London was completed in 1986.

Cars were backed up for at least two miles on Britain’s busiest motorway in the run-up to the five-mile closure between Junctions 10 and 11, National Highways said shortly before lunchtime on Saturday.

Meanwhile, monitoring by Inrix suggested that there were around six miles of queues spanning more than half the length of the 11.5-mile official diversion route through Byfleet, West Byfleet, Woking and Ottershaw.

An information sign as traffic builds up in Cobham, Surrey, near to a closed section of the M25


However, National Highways South East estimated that the average journey time along the diversion route was 25 minutes, assuring drivers of minimal congestion – despite having strongly urged them to avoid driving if necessary.

And the motorway stretch became something of a tourism hotspot, as locals stopped to marvel at the emptiness of the highway after decades of ceaseless traffic.

“It’s absolutely astonishing,” Simon Vassallo, who has lived in the area for 35 years, told The Independent. He was out early “to stock up on provisions” ahead of the traffic building up. “When we came across the bridge this morning, we just had to stop, take a few pictures and take in the marvel that is an empty M25.”

Another local man, Terry Craig from West Byfleet, said: “It’s quite extraordinary to see the motorway, all of these lanes, just shut off. It’s incredible. Apart from Covid, I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything quite like this.”

The M25 normally carries between 4,000 and 6,000 vehicles in each direction every hour from 10am until 9pm at weekends between Junctions 9 and 11. This includes many airline passengers travelling to, from and between the UK’s two busiest airports, Heathrow and Gatwick.

Work is taking place on the section of the M25 between Junctions 10 and 11


But National Highways insisted that the weekend-long shutdown – from 9pm on Friday until 6am on Monday – was necessary to enable a bridge to be demolished and a new gantry to be installed, in what is reported to have been a particularly accident-prone section of road.

Modelling carried out while the plans were being developed estimated that drivers would face delays of up to…

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