The M25 anti-clockwise in Essex will remain closed until late this evening following an earlier lorry fire, Highways England has confirmed.
The fire, which was exacerbated by the lorry’s boozy haul of wine and spirits, has left the road in a state of serious disrepair.
The M25 – Britain’s busiest motorway – is shut betwixt junctions 27 (M11) and 26 (Waltham Abbey) for repairs to the road surface following the fire which broke out on the exit slip road of the latter junction at 4am today.
Traffic is backed up across Epping and Waltham Abbey as drivers try to find a way around the scene.
Emergency services attended the scene the quell the fire, with the motorway closed in both directions at the time.
While the M25 clockwise reopened by 6am and trapped traffic was released, damage to the road surface and leaked hydraulic fluid mean the site of the incident requires resurfacing.
The lorry had been carrying wines, spirits, and car parts.
Recovery of the burnt-out lorry was completed and emergency resurfacing work started shortly after 2pm, with repair work also needed on the nearby fencing.
A spokesman said: “Crews were called to a lorry fire on the M25 between Junction 27 – 26 just before 4am this morning.
“On arrival firefighters reported that the lorry was 100% alight.
“Crews worked hard to bring the fire under control and completely extinguished it by 6.40am. Crews expect to remain on scene for some time to continue dampening down the area.
“The cause has been recorded as accidental.”
Highways England says debris is being removed from the road but resurfacing works will need to take place before police can allow traffic through again.
No timeframe for when the road will reopen has been given but Essex Traffic Control Centre says the carriageway will remain closed “until after the evening rush”.
Entry to #M25 J27 going anti-clockwise from the #M11 (J6) both directions towards the A1, M1 and Heathrow is CLOSED due to the earlier lorry fire, we are currently removing the debris and starting to resurface. @googlemaps is not showing it as closed, but it is.
Emergency services rushed to the scene of a crash on the M25 this afternoon that brought long delays to road users in the area.
The crash occurred between Junctions 9 and 10 of the motorway, and Highways England reported heavy delays and slow-moving traffic stretching back miles away from the scene of the crash.
Camera images published by the roads authority meanwhile showed a heavy emergency services presence in the area as first responders attended.
Tweeting out news of the crash, a Highways England spokesperson said:
“#M25 J10 #Wisley to J9 #Leatherhead – Lanes 1, 2 & 3 (of 4) are closed due to an RTC. Emergency services are on scene.
“Please be aware that this #M25 incident is causing delays of 30 mins above normal journey time for this time of day.
“There is approx. 3.5 miles of slow moving traffic on approach. Please allow plenty of extra time for your journey if you are travelling in the area.”
Please be aware that this #M25 incident is causing delays of 30 mins above normal journey time for this time of day. There is approx. 3.5 miles of slow moving traffic on approach. Please allow plenty of extra time for your journey if you are travelling in the area. pic.twitter.com/NNU3X0qKUC
A ‘multi-vehicle incident’ added to major delays on the M25 in Hertfordshire this morning (Wednesday, June 30).
According to traffic reports, the incident happened earlier this morning between J24 for Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, and J25 heading anticlockwise when car reportedly ended up on its side, but this has now cleared.
Drivers have also been warned to expect delays getting onto the motorway at J25 and J26 due to traffic building as the result of a separate lorry fire near Waltham Abbey.
The government has been urged to “pull its finger out” to prevent a potentially crippling lack of lorry drivers on our roads.
Hauliers are warning shelves could be left empty due to a combination of increased demand, the implications of Brexit, poor pay and huge delays at HGV test centres.
According to the Road Haulage Association (RHA), prior to the pandemic the industry was facing a shortage of more than 60,000 drivers. It says that has now exceeded 100,000 and that “critical supply chains are now failing”.
He says the problem has been exacerbated by the closing during lockdown of HGV test centres – and the selling off of many sites in recent years.
Kent, he explains, now has just one site to serve the entire county – in Gillingham – after the Canterbury site was shut down.
And that is in huge demand from HGV schools in the London suburbs too due to restrictions introduced on older HGVs – used by many driving schools – inside the M25.
He explains: “There’s always been a shortage, but the pandemic and Brexit has seen it come to light.
“When the pandemic came, they closed down the HGV test centres for 37 weeks. They felt is was unfair for examiners to meet four people a day in a lorry. Yet the poor girl working at Tesco on the check-out will meet 2,000 people and she had to work.
“Closing those sites down for so long and selling others off has had a huge impact. The government has to be accountable for what it has done. It has to pull its finger out.
“There are lots of people who want to learn, but not enough test centres. We’re all fighting to get driving tests but while we’re doing that, we’re not getting pupils through.”
He says Gillingham’s test site currently offers 100 tests a week – but there are 42 schools trying to book the places, which is contributing to a huge backlog.
The situation is being replicated throughout the country, with neighbouring counties also having just one test site and not sufficient capacity to fill the increasing number of vacancies.
In addition, many lorry drivers from Eastern Europe can no longer work due to Brexit rules – a situation which has only added fuel to the crisis.
Mr Kohn adds many are also put off the industry – essential for the supply and distribution of goods – due to the poor rates of pay. But that any increase would come at a cost.
He explains: “A lot of drivers look at £150 a shift and think that’s not bad. But it depends on what company you work for. You could be working 15 hours a day, so £10 an hour suddenly is not very exciting. But if the hauliers have to pay more then they have to charge more and the price of goods in the shop will go up.
“But nothing will survive without lorry drivers.”
The RHA has recently written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to help solve the crisis.
It is calling for access to EU and European Economic Area (EEA) labour by adding HGV drivers to the Home Office’s ‘shortage occupation list’ and for a taskforce to be immediately set-up to tackle the issues the industry faces.
At a recent meeting between the RHA’s chief executive, Richard Burnett and Roads Minister, Baroness Vere, he told her: “The need for action is clear and urgent. We and many others have provided overwhelming evidence that the shortage is getting worse – the situation must be addressed right now.”
The government has giving a commitment to continue to look at actions that can be taken to address the issues raised by industry.