First-ever planned M25 full closure prompts rare ‘avoid travel’ alert

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) Drivers have been urged to avoid the area surrounding part of the M25 amid warnings a planned closure of the motorway[1] in both directions is expected to cause significant delays. National Highways issued the alert as it prepares to close a five-mile stretch of the motorway in Surrey from 9pm on Friday until 6am on Monday in order for a bridge to be demolished and a new gantry to be installed.

Modelling carried out while the plans were being developed estimated that drivers would face delays of up to five hours without mitigation measures such as urging drivers to stay away and creating diversion routes. National Highways believes only around an hour will be added to journeys because of the steps it has taken, which is based on a reduction in traffic of 50%. However, it warned that because the planned closure is "unprecedented", experts have "nothing to benchmark it against".

As a result, motorists are being warned to avoid the area if possible during the closure, which will be the first scheduled daytime all-lanes shutdown on the M25 since it opened in 1986. "There's never been a closure of this nature. We really can't be certain how many people will heed the messages which we've given," said National Highways project lead Jonathan Wade.

"It's very difficult to determine right now how effective all our traffic management will be. Please don't travel if you can avoid it," he said. Wade has raised concerns that some drivers may still try to find alternative routes via minor roads, which is why he has urged drivers to ignore directions from their satnavs and to follow the designated diversion routes.

He said: "How many people are going to take the initiative and try and use satnavs? There's probably a greater risk of congestion by people just doing their own thing and thinking they can perhaps beat the signs and find a shorter or quicker route. Story continues

"That will cause further congestion on some of the key junctions so please avoid doing that if at all possible." National Highways senior project manager Daniel Kittredge said: "If people move away from diversion routes that we prescribe, it creates additional issues in different parts of the road network. "The majority of the time that will be local roads, so that really impacts residents in those particular areas.

That's why we're trying to encourage people to not follow the satnav." Click below to see the latest South and South-east headlines

When and where will the M25 be closed?

The M25 will be 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 warns. This will be 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.

Wade added: "Drivers should only use the M25 if their journey is absolutely necessary. This is the first of five full closures of one of the busiest junctions on our road network. "We have spent months planning for these closures and making sure there are diversion routes in place, but there will still be heavy congestion and delays.

"These improvements will bring long-term benefits to drivers who pass through this stretch of the M25, not to mention pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders who will also see positive changes in the area."