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How bad was the M25 traffic this weekend?

Residents near the M25 closure have described the area as “surprisingly quiet” during this weekend's historic motorway shutdown.

Vehicles in Byfleet, near to a closed section of the M25 between Junctions 10 and 11, while a bridge is demolished and a new gantry is installed. Picture date: Saturday March 16, 2024. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Vehicles in Byfleet, near to a closed section of the M25. (Getty)

Business owners and residents near the M25 closure have described the area as being “surprisingly quiet” during this weekend's historic motorway shutdown.

Some had feared there would be “carnage”, cancellations, disturbed sleep and gridlocked traffic. However, this nightmare scenario did not materialise and the surrounding area was “eerily silent", according to one local.

Motorists endured further disruption on Sunday as the five-mile stretch of the M25 in Surrey remained closed for a third successive day. Drivers had been warned of significant delays in both directions ahead of the shutdown on Friday and urged to try to avoid the diversion route area.

The closure between junctions 10 and 11 in Surrey, which began at 9pm on Friday and will run until 6am on Monday, is for a bridge to be demolished and the installation of a new gantry.

On Sunday morning, National Highways South-East (NHSE) said the engineering work was "on schedule". It is the first scheduled daytime all-lanes closure on the M25 since it opened in 1986.

What have locals said?

Sophie Trippit, a long-time resident of Byfleet and cafe worker, expressed her concern that the diversion would lead to chaos and had even advised her family to walk to work if possible. However, to her surprise, the traffic was much quieter than usual and it seemed that drivers had heeded the warnings and avoided the area.

“It’s been absolutely fine,” she told Yahoo News. “Yesterday was really quiet, like the COVID-19 lockdown.

“We were expecting to see traffic jams and it was fine. Everyone arrived on time for their parties at the cafe.”

Carolyn Atkins, from SuperGrass, an artificial grass company, just outside Woking, said on Thursday she was “absolutely dreading” the closure because another one had previously caused “traffic everywhere”.

However, she told Yahoo News on Saturday: "It hasn't affected us at all actually. Our lads went off to work this morning, and it's been really quiet.

Atkins’ partner, Steven Offer, also confirmed it was not as bad as they thought it would be, and she had been able to take her granddaughter to work experience in Guildford on Sunday as planned.

He added: “The roads have been really quiet, no problem whatsoever.

A business, based just off the diversion route outside Woking, told Yahoo News that it had been "really quiet" in their area on Saturday.

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)
Traffic in surrounding areas wasn't as bad as feared. (Getty Images)

What have authorities said?

Amanda Boote, of Woking Borough Council, said the traffic along the new route through the towns of Byfleet, West Byfleet, Woking and Ottershaw was not as bad as feared.

National Highways South-East (NHSE) said on Sunday morning its work remains on schedule as it shared an image on X, formerly Twitter, of the new gantry being guided in place with a crane.

On Saturday night, the organisation said it had made “good progress” during the first 24 hours of work.

Congestion stretched for two miles on Saturday morning, according to National Highways South-East (NHSE), and the estimated average journey time through the diversion route was 25 minutes.

When is the M25 being closed?

The affected stretch of the M25 was closed as of 9pm on Friday and will remain shut until 6am on Monday.

Residents, holidaymakers, concertgoers and sports fans travelling to and around the capital have been urged to allow extra time for their journeys and find alternative travel arrangements. Those travelling to Gatwick and Heathrow airports and Channel ports may be affected, National Highways warned.

Why?

National Highways is undertaking an improvement project on the road that will cost £317m. The company, which is owned by the government, said that the closure was necessary so that a bridge could be demolished to allow a new overhead traffic sign to be installed.

The project will increase the number of lanes and make it easier to enter and exit the M25 at junction 10 – one of the UK's busiest and most dangerous motorway junctions. The aim is to improve safety and make it easier to enter and exit the M25, as well as reduce pollution caused by traffic jams.

This weekend's closure is the first of five shutdowns between now and September 2024 under a "junction 10 improvement scheme". The project is due to be completed in summer 2025.

What is the diversion?

The five-mile stretch of the M25 will be closed from 9pm on Friday 15 March until 6am on Monday 18 March. (Yahoo News/Google)
The five-mile stretch of the M25 will be closed from 9pm on Friday 15 March until 6am on Monday 18 March. (Yahoo News/Google)

The diversion around the closure spans over double the length of the closure itself. Drivers are being forced to divert for 11 miles, going through Ottershaw and on to Sheerton in Woking, before heading towards Byfleet in Surrey, past the Botleys Mansion wedding venue'

Drivers then have to join the A3 southbound, going back on themselves and heading towards RHS Garden Wisley before turning back on the M25.

According to National Highways South-East (NHSE) the estimated average journey time through the diversion route was 25 minutes on Saturday. It added that workers had made good progress during the first night of work, as it shared an image on X, formerly Twitter.

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