The Telegraph 2024-03-18 10:00:37

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M25 closure creates ‘ghost town’ amid warnings of future shutdowns

The weekend closure of part of the M25 left a Surrey golf club a “ghost town”, amid warnings of further disruption from future planned shutdowns of the motorway.

A five-mile stretch of London’s orbital motorway between junctions 10 and 11 was closed in both directions between Friday night and Monday morning while a bridge was demolished and a new gantry installed.

It was the first daytime closure of the M25 since it was opened in 1986.

There were tailbacks of up to two miles, while businesses suffered as thousands of motorists heeded official advice and stayed at home.

Silvermere Golf Club, a plush 18-hole course near Cobham just off the M25, lost an estimated £50,000 over the weekend as its normally bustling complex was left largely empty.

“It was a ghost down today,” said Terry Sims, 52, the managing director of Silvermere. “It seems that a lot of people stayed away – we were 45 per cent down in the restaurant and 43 per cent down in retail… There was a period of time where basically nobody came in.”

He added that with four more daytime closures of the M25 planned up to September, “it will be between £250,000 to £300,000 turnover off our line if it’s a ghost town”.

Mr Sims said that traffic issues in the area have been “a growing issue over the last five to eight years” around junction 10 and a major conference provider had already pulled out of hosting events at Silvermere as a result, leading to a loss of £3,500 a month in income.

The point where the M25 intersects with the A3 is one of Britain’s busiest and most dangerous motorway junctions, with one of the highest rates of traffic accidents across the National Highways network.

The Telegraph understands that other nearby businesses along the diversion route also suffered as a result of the weekend shutdown.

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

Meanwhile, the Royal Horticultural Society’s flagship Wisley Gardens had advised would-be visitors to “allow a little extra time to complete your journey,” adding that a local bus service used by patrons would not be stopping at the gardens during the closure.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade association UK Hospitality, said she hoped National Highways would work with local businesses to “try to manage diversions better and minimise disruptions to trade”.

“Hundreds of local hospitality and tourism businesses have seen a disrupted start to the crucial Easter period, with visitors to pubs, restaurants and tourist attractions caught up in a weekend of chaotic disruption,” she said.

“We urge local councils to use discretionary powers to reduce business rates liabilities for businesses who are seeing revenues reduced by between a third and a half.”

The M25 normally carries up to 6,000 vehicles in each direction every hour at weekends between junctions nine and 11, including between Britain’s two busiest airports at Heathrow and Gatwick.

Amanda Boote, of Woking Borough Council, said that traffic along the new route through the towns of Byfleet, West Byfleet, Woking and Ottershaw was not as bad as feared.

National Highways South-East said the estimated average journey time through the diversion route was 25 minutes and that its work remained on schedule ahead of the Monday morning rush hour.

Despite the relatively smooth weekend, business leaders are cautioning that the four planned future shutdowns will cause even more losses of trade.

Four more closures of the M25’s south west quadrant are set to take place later this year, with the next being scheduled for the weekend of 19–22 April.

National Highways has not confirmed future closure dates, although it indicated that the following shutdown will take place at some point in May.

Disruption to local businesses around the M25 closures is set to get worse as the year progresses, with official statistics from the Department for Transport showing that road traffic is at its highest in summer and lowest in winter.

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