M25 closed: Drivers urged to make alternative travel plans as motorway partially shuts for first time ever

Drivers have been urged to make alternative travel plans otherwise face major gridlock this weekend after five miles of the M25 in Surrey closed in an unprecedented move.

The closure between junction 10 and 11 from 9pm on Friday to 6am on Monday is forcing around 200,000 motorists to take an 11.5-mile diversion around Painshill, Byfleet, and West Byfleet on the eastern side of Woking.

Vehicles could face delays of around an hour, National Highways modelling shows.

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

Residents in Surrey are staying at home “like Covid lockdown” to avoid the chaos, as motorists are expected to divert through the area.

Map of diversion route (PA Wire)
Map of diversion route (PA Wire)

It’s the first time the motorway, which circles most of Greater London, has been closed since it opened in 1986. The closure will allow lanes to be extended and a bridge to be demolished in a bid to lower congestion and collisions.

More than 200,000 vehicles are set to be affected, including many travelling in and out of London, and to and from Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Channel ports.

Travellers heading to Heathrow and Gatwick airports - the UK’s two busiest airports - are being advised to allow extra time.

The Airline and RailAir coach services will be running amended timetables, Sky News reported.

National Express, which runs 100 coaches a day between the two airports, has been consulted and is urging its passengers to move to earlier services, according to The Times.

"Passengers using public transport should also be aware that The Airline coach (between Heathrow and Gatwick) and RailAir (RA2), will be running amended timetables over this weekend, please check with your operator for the latest information," their statement said.

St Peter's Hospital in Chertsey, Surrey, warned patients to "only visit if necessary".

The closed section of the M25 normally carries between 4,000 and 6,000 vehicles in each direction per hour from 10am until 9pm at weekends, so the disruption caused by the works is expected to be significant.

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.

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, told the PA news agency: “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.”

Drivers are being warned of long delays during the first planned daytime closure of a stretch of the UK’s busiest motorway (PA)
Drivers are being warned of long delays during the first planned daytime closure of a stretch of the UK’s busiest motorway (PA)

Meanwhile residents in small villages across Surrey - which are part of the diversion routes - have braced for bumper to bumper traffic on single carriageways.

People stockpiled on groceries and are staying home “like Covid lockdown” to avoid the chaos, one Byfleet councillor suggested.

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.”

Meanwhile Tahir Aziz from Woking 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.”

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.

Amanda Boote, another councillor in Byfleet on Woking Council, told Sky News: “It's going to literally be gridlock, nose to tail.”