Travel mayhem ensues after closures and crash on M25 and five-mile tailback on diversion route

16 March 2024, 15:09 | Updated: 16 March 2024, 17:46

Five miles of congestion has built up on the M25 approach today after a huge stretch of the motorway was shut for the first time.
Five miles of congestion has built up on the M25 approach today after a huge stretch of the motorway was shut for the first time. Picture: Alamy/National Highways

By Jenny Medlicott

Five miles of congestion has built up on the M25 approach today after a huge stretch of the motorway was shut for the first time.

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The M25 was shut between junctions 10 (A3 Wisley) and 11 (A320 Chertsey Interchange) in Surrey at 9pm on Friday evening and will not open back up until 6am on Monday.

Drivers have been warned only to travel if necessary as the closure is expected to cause heavy congestion.

Surrey Highways reported congestion through Byfleet, West Byfleet, Woking and Ottershaw so far today.

The misery has been compounded after a multi-car collision on the road between J5 and J6 near Sevenoaks on Saturday evening.

They did however suggest that the roads near the closure are "general coping" with the added congestion caused by the unprecedented disruption.

Pedestrians were seen taking photographs of the eery empty roads near Byfleet.

Driver numbers are said to be lower than expected on the Surrey side-roads.

Pedestrians taking photographs of the eery empty roads near Byfleet.
Pedestrians were seen taking photographs of the eery empty roads near Byfleet. Picture: Alamy
A closed section of the M25 between Junctions 10 and 11, at Byfleet in Surrey, that is closed in both directions while a bridge is demolished and a new gantry is installed. Picture date: Saturday March 16, 2024.
A closed section of the M25 between Junctions 10 and 11, at Byfleet in Surrey, that is closed in both directions while a bridge is demolished and a new gantry is installed. Picture date: Saturday March 16, 2024. Picture: Alamy

The turn off for Hatchford is reportedly the current pinchpoint of the major tailback, with motorists seeking alternative routes despite being warned this could lead to gridlock in the surrounding villages.

West Byfleet councillor Amanda Boote warned that if people use their sat-navs instead of following official diversions it could send the local village into lockdown.

She told LBC: “Potentially 6,000 vehicles in an hour all coming through this lovely village.

“And they will use all of these side roads because the sat-navs will tell them ‘oh, if you use this kind of side road it might be a bit quicker’, then the whole village will have to go into lockdown’.”

It marks the first time in history that the motorway has been closed during the day for roadworks, with around 6,000 vehicles an hour set to be detoured off the M25 and on to local A roads.

The move has sparked concern among residents in the affected areas, with some stockpiling groceries ahead of the closure.

Read more: How to avoid the travel chaos caused by the M25 closure - alternative routes explained

Read more: ‘Decorate the bathroom or something’ National Highways boss tells drivers ahead of first ever M25 closure

Matthew Wright and LBC's Joseph Draper on the M25 closure

A local dry-cleaner business owner also told LBC it means they will have to cancel dozens of orders on their busiest day of the week.

He said: “We do pick up and drop off, so we need to cancel the pick up and drop off at the weekend, which is the busiest time for us usually.

“So that’s going to be definitely cancelled, we’re going to customers and say we can’t do any pick up or deliveries over the weekend.”

It comes after Project leader at National Highways, Jonathan Wade, said that people should “find something to do at home” rather than travel this weekend.

"Please, if you can either avoid travelling completely, find something to do at home – decorate the bathroom or something, or play in the garden," he said.

"If you must go, travel by train, walk, use a bicycle. I don't mind really what you do.

"Avoid driving anywhere around those diversionary routes around Painshill, Byfleet, West Byfleet on the eastern side of Woking. It will be in your interests."

Laura Frankland, 51, who lives in the village of Send, told the Times: "It’s going to be horrific."

She added: "I care for my mother who lives in a different village and I have to drive every day. But not this weekend.

"We are going to be staying home — it’s going to be lockdown for the weekend. We’ve done the shopping early … it’s going to be bumper-to-bumper everywhere in Surrey."

Jonathan Wade urged drivers to avoid travelling.
Jonathan Wade urged drivers to avoid travelling. Picture: Alamy

The closure is in place to allow the demolition of a bridleway bridge and installation of a large gantry.

It is the first of five closures between now and September.

National Highways said the improvement scheme will lead to an increase in the number of lanes to "make journeys safer and improve traffic flow".

They added it will make it easier and safer to enter and exit the M25 and provide safer entry roads for Wisley, Pyrford, Old Byfleet and RHS Wisley.

They said it will also reduce the pollution caused by traffic jams.

Ottershaw councillor for Runnymede Borough Council Malcolm Cressey 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."

Canalside councillor for Woking Borough Council Tahir Aziz 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."

Byfleet councillor Daryl Jordan told the Telegraph: “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.”

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