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Home Tourist Attraction Sightseers pose for selfies with empty motorway in the background as driver stuck in six-mile tailback on relief roads fume

Sightseers pose for selfies with empty motorway in the background as driver stuck in six-mile tailback on relief roads fume

by Staff


By Chris Matthews and James Reynolds and Lettice Bromovsky

14:47 16 Mar 2024, updated 15:30 16 Mar 2024



The M25 has become an unlikely tourist attraction after the motorway closed for the weekend, leaving the road empty of cars.

A five-mile stretch of the motorway between junctions 10 and 11 was closed in both directions at 9pm on Friday and will remain inaccessible until 6am on Monday while a bridge is demolished and a new gantry installed. 

Sightseers have been congregating at the main diversion route to pose for selfies with the empty road. 

It is the first planned daytime closure of the motorway – which encircles London – since it opened in 1986. 

An 11.5-mile diversion route has been created to direct motorway traffic along A roads.

Fiona and Patrick Potter, residents of West Byfleet, take a selfie on the Parvis Road bridge in Byfleet, that crosses over a closed section of the M25 between Junctions 10 and 11
The M25 has become an unlikely tourist attraction after the motorway closed for the weekend, leaving the road empty of cars
A group of young boys look in awe at the empty motorway as what appears to be a roadworks van drives towards them
A roadworks van pootles along the empty M25 on Saturday afternoon
Traffic is being diverted while work continues on the major junction which is being replaced over the weekend
Traffic jams have built up for miles on the relief roads taking the brunt of diverted traffic

However, relief roads are now clogged for up to six miles, the Evening Standard reported.

Two miles of congestion was seen on the M25 in Surrey on Saturday morning after a section of it was closed.

Simon Vassallo has lived in the area for 35 years. He told The Independent that seeing the motorway empty was ‘absolutely astonishing’ and he ‘just had to stop and take in the marvel’.

Another local told the paper ‘it’s quite extraordinary… I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything quite like this’.

Concerns have been raised that thousands of drivers will be stuck in gridlocked traffic over the weekend during the unprecedented closure, with one councillor calling it a ‘nightmare’.

Vehicles queue along the street going into Weybridge south-west of London on March 16
Some relief roads are now reportedly clogged for up to six miles because of the closure
Traffic builds up along a relief road in Cobham, Surrey
The M25 is seeing its first total closure over a weekend since its opening in 1986

National Highways South East (NHSE), in a post to X, formerly Twitter, said there were two miles of tailbacks on approach to the closure at junction 10 on Saturday morning.

South East Ambulance Service have pleaded with motorists to make room for emergency service vehicles over the weekend. 

A spokesperson said: ‘We ask for the public’s support and advise motorists to avoid the area unless their journey is essential.

‘We also ask that, as ever, they are aware of any emergency vehicles looking to progress through any heavier traffic.’

Now a section of the M4 at Reading has been shut both ways due to a ‘police incident’ causing further chaos to the west of the capital.  

Long tailbacks are beginning to build up on the A320 as part of the diversion route avoiding the closed section of the M25
A huge operation is underway to unload vehicles carrying essential equipment for this weekend’s work
There are currently two mile tailbacks with things expected to get worse over the coming hours
A bridge across the M25 has been demolished as workers try and complete the project before 6am on Monday

Meanwhile, traffic began to build along the main diversion route through Byfleet, West Byfleet, Woking and Ottershaw.

NHSE estimated the average journey time along the diversion route was 25 minutes, assuring drivers of minimal congestion.

A five-mile stretch will remain shut until 6am on March 18 between Junctions 10 and 11, with vehicles diverted down an 11.5 miles route while the Clearmount bridge is demolished to make way for improvements to the road.

With drivers pushed out through neighbouring villages, the closure of the motorway is expected to cause congestion through affected areas southwest of London, including Ottershaw, Addletone and Wisley.

On an average weekend day, some 6,000 vehicles per hour – or 100 each minute – use the affected five-mile stretch between the two junctions.

Motorists are being funneled before reaching Junction 10 to get them off the motorway and onto the diversion route
Long delays are being reported as hundreds of drivers ignored warning to avoid the area
The motorway is expected to stay closed until Monday while Clearmount bridge is demolished (Pictured: J11 approach by Weybridge)
The M25 London Orbital Motorway will remain shut until Monday amid ‘improvements’ (Pictured: J11 approach by Weybridge)
Diversions are set up for people travelling on the busy road on Saturday, near Weybridge
The M25 is expected to stay shut until Monday – but could be closed longer if needed
Drivers are being directed down an 11.5 mile diversion route instead

National Highways has warned motorists to only travel ‘if necessary’ while the closures are in place.

READ MORE: Residents brace for M25 gridlock chaos: Villagers living on official diversion route stockpile groceries and scramble to get home before motorway closes from 9pm tonight and tens of thousands of cars descend on Surrey countryside rat runs 

They say they are looking to ‘demolish the Clearmount bridleway bridge and install a very large gantry’, expecting the work to be completed by Monday.

‘Without a full closure of the M25 at this junction, it would be impossible to safely demolish the overbridges and install the new gantry.’

It fits into a longer-term improvement project expected to be completed by mid-2025.

The renovations will ultimately see new lanes built to make ‘journeys safer and improve traffic flow,’ according to the agency.

‘It will also make it easier and safer to enter and exit the M25.’ 

But without another option, if the work is not completed by Monday it could spell disaster for commuters heading into the capital at the start of next week.

At its peak, National Highways says about 270,000 drivers use the stretch on a weekday.

The closures this weekend will be the first of five between now and Saturday 2024. 

With cars set to be redirected through small villages this weekend, residents who live in the likes of Byfleet, Ottershaw and Woodham are concerned about the impact on local life. 

Motoring experts believe official estimates of congestion levels may be ‘optimistic’, while local councillors in areas where traffic will be diverted are anticipating chaos.

The photos show miles of deserted road, still lit up by the amber overhead lights (Friday night)
Motoring experts believe official estimates of congestion levels may be ‘optimistic’, while local councillors in areas where traffic will be diverted are anticipating chaos
With cars set to be redirected through small villages, residents who live in the likes of Byfleet, Ottershaw and Woodham are concerned about the impact on local life

The motorway was shut down at 9pm on Friday night, with drivers warned to avoid Surrey as there are fears ‘traffic will be nose-to-tail’.

One councillor in Byfleet, which is set to be gridlocked during the closure, said life for locals living on the diversion routes will be a misery. 

The M25 diversion routes this weekend

The five-mile stretch of the M25 between Junctions 10 and 11 in Surrey will be closed in both directions from 9pm on Friday until 6am on Monday.

A local diversion route will be in place which is the same for both directions:

  • Junction 10 to Junction 11: Northbound A3 to Painshill Junction, A245 towards Woking, and then A320 to M25 Junction 11
  • Junction 11 to Junction 10: A320 south towards Woking, A245 towards Byfleet and Painshill junction, Southbound A3 to Junction 10

Taking the M25 in the other direction to avoid the closure is also an option.

Cllr Daryl Jordan said: ‘Basically they’ve slaughtered us in the area, they’ve dumped it on us and we’re suffering.

‘I’m expecting to see absolute gridlock this weekend – everybody I know, and I’ve been in this area for years, has said they’ve been shopping already, they haven’t made any plans and if anything it will be like Covid lockdown and people will be walking the canals and what’s left of our greenbelt.

‘It’s wrong, they’ve taken two days of our lives away – two days when we’re off work.’

National Highways expect motorists will face five-hour delays along the diversion route – although it is feared that this is overly optimistic. 

People going to Heathrow and Gatwick Airport have been advised to use rail services – but a stolen car hitting a railway bridge in south London stopped Gatwick Express trains on Friday afternoon.

A massage and beauty therapist said the M25 closure will have a ‘massive impact’ on her weekend plans both with her business and family.

Elizabeth Lancemen runs Nice To Be Kneaded , a mobile and home-based business in the village of Woodham which is on the diversion route.

But she will not be able to visit any clients over the next few days due to the disruption – and can also not take her son to his football club.

Ms Lanceman told MailOnline: ‘For my business I either work from home or mobile. Obviously I can’t be mobile this weekend. Only local clients can come to me. It’s not like I can put a massage kit on the basket in my bike.

‘Also family wise, the kids have all got clubs, football clubs – we can’t walk there, we can’t get there.’

Her parents are due to fly into Heathrow Airport on Sunday, so she was also concerned at how long her journey will be to pick them up.

And she has had to cancel dinner five miles away in Shepperton because she would have to leave after an hour just to get home before the closure.

While Ms Lanceman accepted that she ‘understands what needs to be done’ on the M25, she added: ‘We’re at the time when everyone’s struggling financially and it’s going to hit local businesses.

‘The roads around here are already a nightmare. I don’t think our roads are built for thousands of cars an hour.’

A diversion will be in place while the M25 is closed between Junctions 10 and 11 in Surrey
This will be the first planned daytime closure of the orbital motorway since it opened in 1986

The M25 has now closed for the weekend, after motorists rushed to complete their journeys
An empty M25 is seen tonight after a five-mile stretch was closed for the weekend
The motorway was shut down at 9pm tonight, with drivers warned to avoid Surrey
Traffic is held as a roadblock is put in place on the M25 as the motorway is closed tonight
The road between Junction 10 and 11 is closed to allow the demolition of a bridge this weekend
Motorists have run out of time complete their journeys today before the motorway is closed for the weekend, as locals living on the diversion route stockpile groceries
Heavy traffic is pictured as people head home ahead of the M25 road closures this evening
The Junction 11 approach by Weybridge, Surrey is full of drivers rushing home tonight
The road – which opened in 1986 – will have the busy section shut until 6am on Monday
Traffic at junction 10 of the M25 in Surrey during a site visit on Monday ahead of the closure

Amanda Boote, councillor in Byfleet on Woking Borough Council, told Sky News: ‘It’s going to literally be gridlock, nose to tail.’

Taking a reporter through the local area yesterday, she said: ‘Looking at now, this isn’t even rush hour, this is just a regular journey.

‘All of those cars are going to be coming up and down this road on both sides, because when they come off at Junction 11 they’re going to be coming the way we are going now, and when they come off at 10 they’re going to be going the other way – and it’s just a single carriageway.’

Sophie Trippit, a cafe worker who has lived in Byfleet for 20 years, told Yahoo News: ‘It’ll be carnage. Where the cafe is situated, everyone can cut through the village.

The unprecedented M25 closure will bring ‘carnage’ to villages on the diversion route with ‘traffic everywhere’ and weekend plans cancelled, locals have warned.

Drivers will be stuck in ‘gridlock, nose to tail‘ when the five-mile stretch between Junctions 10 and 11 in Surrey will be closed in both directions from 9pm tonight until 6am on Monday while a bridge is demolished and a new gantry is installed.

The first planned daytime closure of the London orbital motorway since it opened in 1986 will see locals forced to walk everywhere amid forecasts of five-hour queues.

Motoring experts believe official estimates of congestion levels may be ‘optimistic’, while local councillors in areas where traffic will be diverted are anticipating chaos.

Byfleet in Surrey is among the areas facing traffic ‘carnage’ this weekend from the closure
A couple walking on the River Wey towpath at Byfleet, a Surrey village on the diversion route

With cars set to be redirected through small villages, residents who live in the likes of Byfleet, Ottershaw and Woodham are concerned about the impact on local life.

‘We call it ‘The Byfleet Bubble’. I’m not planning on going anywhere. I’m lucky to be able to walk to work, and that’s what I’ve told my family to do. It’s not going to be fun.’

Elizabeth Lancemen, who runs a massage and beauty therapy business from home in Woodham, added: ‘If you can’t walk somewhere this weekend, don’t go.

‘My son has football at the weekend in Byfleet and we can’t get there and we’ve got a kids club on Sunday, which we can’t get to either.’

M25 closure will have ‘massive impact’ on weekend plans for business and children

A massage and beauty therapist said the M25 closure will have a ‘massive impact’ on her weekend plans both with her business and family.

Elizabeth Lancemen runs Nice To Be Kneaded, a mobile and home-based business in the village of Woodham which is on the diversion route.

But she will not be able to visit any clients over the next few days due to the disruption – and can also not take her son to his football club.

Ms Lanceman told MailOnline: ‘For my business I either work from home or mobile. Obviously I can’t be mobile this weekend. Only local clients can come to me. It’s not like I can put a massage kit on the basket in my bike.

‘Also family wise, the kids have all got clubs, football clubs – we can’t walk there, we can’t get there.’

Her parents are due to fly into Heathrow Airport on Sunday, so she was also concerned at how long her journey will be to pick them up.

And she has had to cancel dinner five miles away in Shepperton because she would have to leave after an hour just to get home before the closure.

While Ms Lanceman accepted that she ‘understands what needs to be done’ on the M25, she added: ‘We’re at the time when everyone’s struggling financially and it’s going to hit local businesses.

‘The roads around here are already a nightmare. I don’t think our roads are built for thousands of cars an hour.’

And self-employed local resident Carolyn Atkins said: ‘It’s going to be awful. The last time they had a road closure nearby there was traffic everywhere.’

National Highways said modelling carried out while it was developing its plans for this weekend indicated vehicles would face delays of up to five hours without mitigation measures, such as urging drivers to stay away.

The Government-owned company believes its awareness campaign will help reduce traffic levels by approximately 50 per cent, meaning the length of time added to journeys will be limited to around an hour.

An 11.5-mile diversion route has been created to direct motorway traffic along A roads.

Malcolm Cressey, Ottershaw councillor for Runnymede Borough Council, said: ‘I think it’s going to be a difficult period but we have to sort out those bridges.

‘I think it’s going to be very disruptive. I would certainly urge anybody to try and avoid the area. It could end up with all sorts of gridlock in our area.’

And Tahir Aziz, Canalside councillor for Woking Borough Council, said: ‘We’ve never experienced something like this before. 

‘It will have a significant impact in this area. It will cause huge disruption and delays, and a lot of traffic jams.’

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.

Amanda Boote, councillor in Byfleet on Woking Borough Council, told Sky News: ‘It’s going to literally be gridlock, nose to tail.’

Taking a reporter through the local area yesterday, she said: ‘Looking at now, this isn’t even rush hour, this is just a regular journey.

‘All of those cars are going to be coming up and down this road on both sides, because when they come off at Junction 11 they’re going to be coming the way we are going now, and when they come off at 10 they’re going to be going the other way – and it’s just a single carriageway.’

National Highways is urging drivers not to use their sat navs to attempt to find quicker alternative routes on minor roads due to fears this could cause major congestion.

Byfleet councillor Amanda Boote told Sky News: ‘It’s going to literally be gridlock, nose to tail’
Traffic approaches junction 10 of the M25 in Surrey on Monday ahead of the planned closure
National Highways project lead Jonathan Wade said it was tough to forecast the amount of congestion that will be caused by the closure because ‘it’s so unprecedented’
Motorists have been warned to avoid the M25 to the west of London as traffic worsens

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said: ‘We must hope National Highways has overstated its dire predictions of sat navs adding to the traffic chaos by taking drivers off the official diversion route, because the temptation to try to skip the queues will be intense, and the impact on actual journey times uncertain.

‘Whilst the modelling suggests around an hour might be added to people’s travel time, that will feel optimistic to anyone used to the frustrations of driving round the M25 on days even without major construction works under way.’

Four more daytime closures of the M25 will take place up to September.

The project, due to be completed in summer 2025, will increase the number of lanes at Junction 10, which is one of the UK’s busiest and most dangerous motorway junctions.

Traffic approaches junction 10 of the M25 in Surrey on Monday ahead of the planned closure

Mr Gooding said: ‘National Highways needs to learn from this weekend’s experience and work closely with neighbouring road managers to minimise the traffic impacts of the further planned closures.

READ MORE Drivers are told to ‘decorate the bathroom or something’ by National Highways boss

‘It must give as much certainty and notice as possible – months rather than weeks – to drivers and hauliers, many of whom will be making trips that can’t be put off to another day.’

Earlier this week, National Highways project lead Jonathan Wade said it was tough to forecast the amount of congestion that will be caused by the closure because ‘it’s so unprecedented’.

He added: ‘It’s very difficult to determine right now how effective all our traffic management will be. Please don’t travel if you can avoid it.’

Mr Wade also said: ‘Please, if you can either avoid travelling completely, find something to do at home – decorate the bathroom or something, or play in the garden.’ 

Drivers have been warned to avoid the area and only use the 11.5-mile diversion route if necessary

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