M25 works

M25 closure: Traffic disruption nowhere near as bad as everyone feared

They even finished work eight hours early

The first daytime total closure of the M25 motorway took place this weekend — and seemingly went off without a hitch, with the predicted traffic chaos failing to materialise.

A five-mile stretch of the motorway was closed from 9pm on Friday night (March 15) as work to widen the A3/ M25 interchange at J10 began.

It necessitated closing all lanes between J10 and J11, the A320 Chertsey Interchange, and diverting traffic around 12 miles on roads near Addlestone, Woking, Sheerwater, West Byfleet and Cobham.

With up to 6,000 vehicles typically using that stretch of the M25 every hour at weekends like the one just gone, the fear was that the diversion route would not be able to cope with the sheer volume of traffic.

Where have all the cars gone?

National Highways issued a warning for people to steer clear of the area and it seemed to have worked a treat — traffic flow was down by more than 50 per cent on normal levels as drivers heeded the advice.

And while there were reports of up to two miles of tailbacks on the M25 and A3 approaching both J10 and J11 at times, the predicted catastrophic meltdown of the local-roads infrastructure never arrived.

Vehicles queue along the street going into Weybridge south-west of London on March 16, 2024, as the London orbital motorway M25 sees it's first total closure over a weekend since it's opening in 1986. The M25 will be closed between junctions 10 and 11 from Friday 15 March 2024 evening until Monday 18 March 2024 morning to demolish the Clearmount bridleway bridge and install a very large gantry. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Indeed, as the author of Very British Problems, Rob Temple, found out for The Sunday Times when he ploughed into the area regardless of the warnings, it appeared as if the traffic drama had been significantly overplayed.

“It’s as we drive along the A320 through Ottershaw that we first see what lies ahead, what we truly face, which is: a completely clear road. Surely there’s been a mistake?

“Onwards we go, following the yellow signs, into West Byfleet and all the way through to the end of the diversion at the Junction 10 Wisley interchange. The whole diversion takes, ooh, 20 minutes. Not quite the five hours it’s supposed to.

“To check I’m not hallucinating, I go back and forth along the diversion multiple times throughout the day. Where the devil is everyone?”

Finished eight hours early

Better still, National Highways even finished this stage of the work early. The road was due to reopen at 6am today [Monday, March 18], but in fact the M25 reopened around 10pm last night, eight hours ahead of schedule.

Jonathan Wade, the National Highways project lead and the man who had told drivers to stay away from the south-western quadrant of the M25 while this weekend closure was in place, was understandably pleased at the outcomes of the project.

“We are delighted that we have been able to complete the work early and reopen the M25 ahead of schedule,” he said.

“Drivers have taken on board our advice, which reduced traffic levels by more than 50 per cent and meant the length of time added to journeys was around 30 minutes. 

“Thank you to everyone for their cooperation that has made carrying out work on this major project to make journeys safer and reduce pollution much easier.  

“We are extremely grateful to our delivery partners, Surrey County Council, the emergency services, and everyone else who has supported us this weekend.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: A closed section of the M25 on March 17, 2024 in London, England. The full closure of a section of the M25 between junction 10 and 11 has taken place over the weekend to remove a bridge and install a new gantry. The closure is part of a £317m upgrade, with works expected to be finished by September. It is the first time there has been a scheduled daytime closure of all lanes of the motorway since it opened in 1986. The 117 mile long orbital motorway encircles Greater London and is the busiest in the UK. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

More closures coming

A further four total closures of the M25 will take place during the remainder of this year, with the next one scheduled for April.

The entire scheme will see the interchange at J10 enhanced to make the road safer and to allow for better traffic flow between the M25 and A3.

This first stage saw a footbridge demolished and the installation of a “very large gantry”. A heathland bridge will also be installed as part of the work, allowing wildlife to transit from Ockham Common to Wisley Common safely above the M25.

National Highways hopes the scheme will be completed and opened in summer 2025.

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