M25 Closure Clockwise, Hertfordshire. Friday 18 December 2015

The M25 clock­wise in Hert­ford­shire was closed between J20 and J21 due to a shed load from a heavy goods vehi­cle. The spillage required exten­sive clean-up before the road could be reopened.

At 10:35 on Fri­day 18 Decem­ber 2015 Hert­ford­shire Police received an emer­gency call from a mem­ber of the pub­lic report­ing a col­li­sion had occurred on the M25 between J20 (Hemel Hemp­stead, Ayles­bury, A41) and J21 (the inter­change with M1). Both Hert­ford­shire Police and High­ways England’s East­ern Regional Con­trol Cen­tre at South Mimms dis­patched units to scene and mon­i­tored the scene via CCTV. A Hert­ford­shire Police traf­fic unit arrived at 10:44 and reported back that the col­li­sion had resulted in a shed load of food waste from a Heavy Goods Vehi­cle (HGV) that had col­lided with a car result­ing in minor injuries.

CCTV of the scene showed that the spillage was quite sub­stan­tial and a large sec­tion of the road was blocked with traf­fic slowly mak­ing its way past the scene using the hard shoul­der. Pic­tures taken from the scene show the extent of the spillage.

It soon became clear that this was going to be a con­sid­er­able amount of work to the clear the spillage and more resources were instructed to attend.  An Inci­dent Sup­port Unit from Con­nect Plus (M25) Ltd (High­ways England’s  con­trac­tor for road main­te­nance and inci­dent sup­port for the M25) arrived on scene at just after 11:00 to assess the scale of the spillage, what resources would be required and to start ini­tial attempts to clear some of the road.

Whilst this occurred, the ambu­lance ser­vice dealt with the minor injuries that arose from the col­li­sion and con­veyed the casu­al­ties to hospital.

Through­out this time traf­fic was allowed to con­tinue to fil­ter past the scene on the hard shoul­der but despite this delays con­tin­ued to rise rapidly and by 12:00 there was sev­eral miles of slow mov­ing traf­fic on the clock­wise M25 with delays of 40 min­utes above nor­mal jour­ney times being detected.

Addi­tional resources arrived on scene to deal with the clean-up (includ­ing a lorry equipped with a grab device) by 12:00 but in order for all attend­ing work­ers and equip­ment to have a safe space to work in the deci­sion were taken to close the motor­way between J20 and J21. This was in place by 12:20 and a diver­sion route was implemented.

The diver­sion route took traf­fic off at J20 to fol­low the route marked with a solid tri­an­gle sym­bol on local road signs. This route took the A41 towards Lon­don via the A41/A411 Hunton Bridge round­about and on to the A405 Leaves­den Green junc­tion, con­tin­u­ing past M1 J6 and re-join the M25 at J21A.

When the clo­sure was imple­mented there was a large amount of traf­fic “trapped” within the clo­sure. This traf­fic was allowed to con­tinue to pass the scene of the inci­dent — this took some time and was not com­pleted until approx 14:00 at which point our con­trac­tors and recov­ery agents could get to work in earnest to clear the road.

There was in total 30 tonnes of waste food prod­uct to clear-up. Our con­trac­tors worked tire­lessly to pick up the load and place it on to a recov­ery vehi­cle. The road then required to be swept of smaller items from the load, and then jet washed to wash away the sub­stan­tial amount of liq­uids from the load. Once com­plete the road need grit­ting of the road to ensure that there was no resid­ual chem­i­cals which could cause fur­ther inci­dents once the road reopened. Whilst this was hap­pen­ing the recov­ery of the lorry involved in the inci­dent was also under­taken and this was com­pleted by 17:00.

At 18:30 the road was fully cleared of debris and our con­trac­tors began pack­ing away all the equip­ment they had used to deal with the clean-up and recov­ery and by 19:00 the scene was clear and the clo­sure of the main car­riage­way and clock­wise entry slip road at J20 began to be removed. The road was fully open by 19:20.

Through­out the inci­dent High­ways Eng­land pro­vided reg­u­lar updates to the media via our National Inci­dent Liai­son Offi­cers (NILO) at the National Traf­fic Oper­a­tions Cen­tre (NTOC) in Birm­ing­ham. This was done via reg­u­lar reports to both local and national traf­fic infor­ma­tion providers (such as the BBC, Traf­fic­mas­ter etc.) as well as using social media chan­nels (such as Twit­ter). In addi­tion when the road was closed and a diver­sion imple­mented our NILOs set a mes­sage on the High­ways Eng­land web­site to advise road users of the route.

The inci­dent also resulted in sig­nif­i­cant delays (traf­fic was tak­ing up to an hour to get off the M25 at J20) which our NTOC mon­i­tored and using the elec­tronic Vari­able Mes­sage Signs (VMS) around the M25 and South East region we endeav­oured to inform road users of the delays so they could con­sider alter­na­tive routes and knew to allow addi­tional time for their jour­neys. Our NILOs sup­ported the use of the VMS by advis­ing the pub­lic of delays on our @HighwaysEAST and @HighwaysSEAST accounts on Twit­ter. This was in addi­tion to reg­u­lar updates via our traf­fic infor­ma­tion web­sites: Traf­fic Eng­land (a mobile ver­sion is here and we have a traf­fic app for Android and iPhone smartphones).

Fol­low­ing the reopen­ing of the road delays began to dis­si­pate fairly swiftly with nor­mal traf­fic con­di­tions return­ing by 20:30.

High­ways Eng­land would like to thank road users for their patience and under­stand­ing dur­ing this clo­sure and the exten­sive clean-up oper­a­tion it required.

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