First daytime closure of stretch of M25 ‘going to be a nightmare’, locals fear

The five-mile stretch of the motorway between junctions 10 and 11 is closed until 6am on Monday.

A view of traffic approaching junction 10 of the M25 in Surrey on Monday March 11
M25 closure A view of traffic approaching junction 10 of the M25 in Surrey on Monday March 11 (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The first planned daytime closure of the M25 could be a “nightmare”, a councillor fears as local residents and businesses along the diversion route brace for the impact.

The five-mile stretch of the motorway between junctions 10 and 11 was closed in both directions at 9pm on Friday and will remain inaccessible until 6am on Monday while a bridge is demolished and a new gantry installed.

Concerns have been raised that thousands of drivers will be stuck in gridlocked traffic over the weekend during the unprecedented closure.

It is the first planned daytime closure of the motorway – which encircles London – since it opened in 1986.

TRANSPORT M25 (Press Association Images)

An 11.5-mile diversion route has been created to direct motorway traffic along A roads.

Daryl Jordan, of Woking Borough Council, told the PA news agency the Byfleet Road, which is close to junction 10, had been “chock-a-block” on Friday afternoon.

He said residents will be “affected massively”.

“It is pulling people apart,” the councillor told PA.

“I mean, you know, when you work full-time and then you’re going to get home tonight from work thinking ‘I must fill the fridge up’ and you can’t even get into your own village.

“It’s going to be a nightmare.

“Just going down the road to get milk is going to be a problem tomorrow or picking up your dry cleaning.”

Business owners in the areas along the diversion route have told of cuts they have made to their services in anticipation of traffic.

Mark Pollak, owner of Billy Tong, which caters for events and sells biltong at markets, told PA he expects to see 50% of the firm’s turnover for the weekend go “down the drain”.

Mr Pollak said he had to refuse a request to cater an event in Guildford and had to cancel its stall at Surbiton Farmers’ Market on Saturday with staff not wanting to face expected traffic to get to jobs.

“It has a massive impact on my business,” he said.

“I’ve cancelled events, I can’t get customers to come and collect stuff, I can’t get my staff to go to events.”

Ammara Kanwal, director of Code Kids, cancelled a coding club session due to take place at Cobham Free School on Saturday over fears she would not be able to make it there on time.

“It was a bit of a disappointment,” she told PA.

“I am the one who cancelled, it was my business, so I am having to issue a refund for tomorrow.

“I mean, nobody wants to travel somewhere for two hours if it doesn’t take that long, it’s not fair.”

But some businesses are not expecting much impact.

The Black Prince pub in Addlestone does not expect the diversion route to affect its business, with one of its staff members explaining customers are mostly local and in walking distance.

Motoring experts are warning that official estimates of congestion levels may be “optimistic” while local councillors in areas where motorway traffic will be diverted are anticipating “gridlock”.

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

This includes many airline passengers travelling to, from and between the UK’s two busiest airports, Heathrow and Gatwick.

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

It 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 PA: “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.”

Four more daytime closures of the M25 will take place up to September.

The project, due to be completed in summer 2025, will increase the number of lanes at junction 10, one of the UK’s busiest and most dangerous motorway junctions.