Road re-opens after van fire chaos

A BUSY section of the M11 finally re-opened yesterday after a day of travel chaos caused by a potentially explosive van fire. Hundreds of travellers missed flights and others were trapped in traffic jams for up to four hours on Saturday after police closed the motorway between London and Stansted Airport.

By John Howard

A BUSY section of the M11 finally re-opened yesterday after a day of travel chaos caused by a potentially explosive van fire.

Hundreds of travellers missed flights and others were trapped in traffic jams for up to four hours on Saturday after police closed the motorway between London and Stansted Airport.

At one stage tailbacks on the motorway stretched for eight miles, choked with airline passengers trying to reach Stansted in time for their flights.


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The chaos was made worse because the Stansted Express train from London to the airport was cancelled this weekend for track maintenance.

A replacement coach service from Liverpool Street station to Stansted could not run because of the M11 closure, leaving some travellers facing huge delays.

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Firefighters ordered that the motorway should be closed in both directions between Junctions 6 and 7 after a recovery van caught fire.

The van, sent to assist a lorry - believed to be from the Felixstowe offices of haulage and container firm NedLloyd - which broke down near Junction 6 just after 5.30am on Saturday, was carrying potentially dangerous gas cylinders when it burst into flames and had to be monitored for 24 hours.

But yesterday morning an Essex Police spokeswoman said the carriageway had been re-opened. She added: “The carriageways in both directions of the M11 between junctions six and eight are now both fully reopened and traffic is now moving along it.”

Meanwhile, a Stansted Airport spokesman estimated that fewer than 500 people had missed their flights but accepted some may have to wait several days before reaching their destinations.

On Saturday, he said: “All the flights are still departing as they should.

“We have still got passengers turning up late and missing their flights, and they are queueing up at the ticket desks to get rebooked on later flights.

“It is disappointing that people are missing flights, but the airlines are doing their best to get them to their destinations.”

Dense traffic built up on the M11 south of Stansted Airport as hundreds of motorists tried to leave the motorway at Junction 7 onto local roads.

The situation improved after the Highways Agency closed the road at Junction 8 and started to turn traffic around. Warning signs were also set up as far north as Doncaster.

A spokesman for the Highways Agency said: “We have heard reports that people have been stuck for three to four hours.

“It is quite a long stretch between Junctions 8 and 7 - when you have got the best part of eight miles of traffic in three lanes trying to get off and on to the local roads, you are going to get heavy congestion.”

An Essex Police spokeswoman said many people had apparently driven onto the M11 unaware of the delays.

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