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M25 drivers face more delays as closure enters third day

National Highways South-East has said the engineering work is 'on schedule'.

Workman on the section of the M25 between Junctions 10 and 11, 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.
Work to demolish a bridge and install a new gantry takes place on a section of the M25 between junctions 10 and 11 that is closed in both directions this weekend. (Alamy)

Motorists are enduring further disruption on Sunday as a five-mile stretch of the M25 remains closed for a third successive day.

Drivers were warned of significant delays in both directions ahead of the shutdown and have been urged to try and 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.

Concerns had been raised that thousands of drivers would be stuck in gridlocked traffic over the weekend, with one councillor calling it a "nightmare". However, 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.

Read more: M25 closure map shows 11-mile diversion ahead of March roadworks

Saturday morning saw two-mile tailbacks on the motorway, but one business, based just off the diversion route outside Woking, told Yahoo News that it had been "really quiet" in their area. This may suggest that many people took the advice of National Highways project leader Jonathan Wade to stay at home and "decorate the bathroom" or "play in the garden".

However, the worst could still be to come, with planned engineering works on South Western Railway's network due to be carried out by Network Rail on Sunday, meaning replacement buses travelling through affected areas.

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

Vehicles queue along the hight street in 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)
Vehicles queue along the high street in Weybridge south-west of London on Saturday. (Getty Images)

Michael Dnes, head of future roads technology at the Department for Transport, had warned that some of the "traffic currently ramming an eight-lane motorway" will filter onto the high street in the village of Byfleet, which is on the 11-mile diversion route. "It won't be pretty," he said.

Urging motorists to avoid the stretch of road would be difficult for many due to a lack of alternative options, he added.

"There's no parallel public transport worth talking about. Virtually all the trains are designed to run into central London. The bus network doesn't cover these kinds of journeys. Most travel distances aren't viable by bike or foot. 78% of the traffic on this bit of the M25 is traveling to or from somewhere fairly local. Only 2% is staying on the M25 all the way without turning off."

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, 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)
Fiona and Patrick Potter take a selfie on the Parvis Road bridge in Byfleet that crosses over a closed section of the M25. (PA/Getty Images)
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 closed at 9pm on Friday and is scheduled to reopen on 6am on Monday. (Yahoo News/Google)

Read more: M25 closure: Tips on driving as major delays expected this weekend

Meanwhile, some businesses made sacrifices in anticipation of traffic chaos. Mark Pollak, owner of Billy Tong, which caters for events and sells biltong at markets, said he expected to see 50% of the firm's turnover for the weekend go "down the drain", adding that he had to turn down a request to cater at an event in Guildford.

Residents in nearby Byfleet told Yahoo News UK on Thursday they were expecting "carnage", while council leaders in Surrey also said they are expecting "all sorts of gridlock". Meanwhile, St Peter's Hospital in Chertsey urged people to "only visit if it is necessary" over the weekend.

Watch: Drivers urged to ignore satnavs to prevent gridlock during M25 closure

The M25 between junctions 9 and 11 normally carries from 4,000 to 6,000 vehicles in each direction every hour from 10am until 9pm at weekends.

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 said its awareness campaign would help reduce traffic levels by approximately 50%, meaning the length of time added to journeys would be limited to around an hour.

But motoring experts warned official estimates of congestion levels might have been "optimistic". And National Highways itself cautioned that because the planned closure was "unprecedented", experts had "nothing to benchmark it against".

National Highways also urged 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.

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When and where will the M25 be closed?

The M25 has been closed in both directions between junctions 10 (A3 Wisley) and 11 (A320 Chertsey Interchange), from 9pm on Friday, 15 March to 6am on Monday, 18 March.

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. Travel journalist Simon Calder wrote on X that the "best route is by rail".

This weekend's closure is the first of five closures between now and September 2024 under a "Junction 10 improvement scheme" aiming to increase the number of lanes to make journeys safer and improve the flow of traffic on the motorway.

The project, due to be completed in summer 2025, will also make it easier to enter and exit the M25 at junction 10, which is one of the UK's busiest and most dangerous motorway junctions.