NEW M-WAY ‘ACID’ CHAOS
Drivers trapped for 12 hours
DRIVERS were stranded for 12 hours yesterday after a new security scare shut a motorway.
Bomb disposal experts were called following reports of “hazardous material” near a bridge over the carriageway.
Thousands of motorists were caught up in the gridlock on the M3 in Hampshire.
The motorway – the main route between London and Southampton – was closed between junctions 9 and 11 after emergency services were called just before 4am.
Last night officials said the package appeared to contain hydrochloric acid.
On Tuesday the M1 was shut for nine hours after a container of hydrochloric acid was left on the carriageway near Milton Keynes, Bucks.
The M3 finally reopened at 3.30pm yesterday.
Drivers and passengers caught up in the chaos spoke of their ordeal.
Manchester United fan Paul Hibbert was travelling with pals to see his team play Southampton.
They decided to abandon their coach and make the one-and-a-half mile journey to Winchester station by foot along the hard shoulder.
The 53-year-old said: “People here are driving up the hard shoulder.
“One of those idiots has hit a car that pulled out in front of him – it’s chaos.”
Others left their cars to walk to the nearest pub, while some were seen playing golf, having a picnic or doing handstands along the hard shoulder.
Some motorists risked their lives by driving the wrong way down the hard shoulder to escape the tailbacks.
Writer Jenna Keating, 31, from Windsor, said: “There are lots of people stranded here, people have got out of their cars to stretch their legs and things, but some are just turning round and going back down the hard shoulder.
“We actually spoke to police about this to see whether this was something we could do in the circumstances and they said, ‘absolutely not’.
“I can’t think it’s a good idea to use the hard shoulder – there have been a couple of unmarked vehicles with sirens blaring coming up and using it, so it’s pretty dangerous if there are cars coming in the other direction.” George Vitelis, who was travelling to Southampton, was stranded at Winchester service station.
He said: “I’m lucky because I’m in the service station, I have use of the facilities, it is lovely and warm and people are just getting on with things.
“There’s not a lot we can do so some guys just took out their golf clubs and are just practising a few strokes.
“It’s quite a strange situation – there are babies having their diapers changed next to the M3, guys playing golf, people having picnics.”
He added: “I was heading down to the boat show in Southampton but that probably isn’t going to happen now.
“I’ll just go tomorrow instead, it’s no problem.
“It’s moments like this that you see the best of the British spirit.”
MISERY: Huge M3 tailback and, inset, bomb squad at scene