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Drivers face 382 motorway closures a month

- M6 motorway revealed as the most frustrating for closures -

Posted on 17 Nov 2016

- More than 90% of drivers have experienced a lane closure on the motorway as a result of road maintenance works.
- Over two thirds (67%) of drivers have had to find an alternative route due to motorway closures.
- On average, alternative routes as a result of motorway closures add 38 minutes to journey times, taking drivers 14 miles out of their way.
- The average number of maintenance motorway closures a month has increased 16% since 2014 – up from 329 in 2014 to 382 in 2016.

Drivers in England, Wales and Scotland are facing an average of 382 planned motorway closures a month, according to new research1 from motoring experts

Alongside this data, further research reveals more than 90% of UK drivers have experienced a maintenance lane closure on the motorway, with drivers naming and shaming the M6 as the worst for closures.

These maintenance projects are having a direct impact on journeys, according to drivers, with over two thirds (67%) having had to find an alternative route due to a diversion. And they have certainly been racking up the mileage. On average, motorists are being diverted 14 miles out of their way as a result of motorway lane closures, adding an average of 38 minutes to the length of their journeys. Over a quarter (28%) of drivers who had to find an alternative route say their most recent experience added a lengthy 21 miles or more to their trip. Over a quarter (27%) have been forced to drive for an extra 45 minutes or longer. A frustrated 18% say the longest amount of time they have been stuck on the motorway is over two hours, with 5% of these having been stranded in their cars for more than four hours.

Worryingly for motorists, maintenance projects on the motorway appear to be on the rise with the average number of motorway closures a month increasing year-on-year, according to the FOI data. The average number of closures a month is up 16% since 2014, when motorways in England, Scotland and Wales were seeing around 329 motorway closures a month, compared to 382 this year (2016 to date). Some perceptive UK drivers are noticing the increase, with 19% saying they think there are more motorway closures this year compared to last year.

Even though 45% of drivers would like to see less motorway closures, the sheer number of projects may come as a surprise. Only 19% of drivers guessed correctly there were 16 motorways or more undergoing maintenance works at the time of survey. 

Most frustrating motorways for closures among drivers

 Positioning   Motorway  % of drivers
 1st  M6  17%
 2nd  M1  16%
 3rd  M25  12%
 4th  M5  7%
 5th  M4  6%

Given the scale of motorway maintenance projects currently underway in the UK, it is telling that more than two out of five (41%) drivers experience lane closures at least every month. This figure includes 15% of drivers who are faced with motorway lane closures either every day or every week. Even so, a quarter (25%) of drivers admit they never check for disruption ahead of travelling on the motorway. 

Of those who do keep up to date with motorway closures, listening to the radio is the most popular method among over half of motorists (52%). Websites, such as Highways England and BBC Motorway Traffic news are also popular, with 38% using them to keep track of motorway closures.

Despite many motorists planning ahead, for some, closures for road maintenance are an unavoidable situation. For those unlucky drivers caught out by motorway closures, over half (56%) will follow the sign-posted diversions. However, over a third (36%) will use their cunning and knowledge of surrounding roads to outwit the diverted route. Over six in 10 (62%) of technology-savvy drivers say they will sometimes use their satnav or mobile phone satnav to find a faster route.

However, attempts to avoid the disruption does not work out for all drivers. A tardy 11% of drivers have missed a meeting or appointment as a result of closed lanes. Meanwhile, 2% have had their car break down as a result of sitting in traffic on the motorway.

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at, says: “It’s important for motorways to be maintained for our own safety, but with lane closures regularly adding several miles and hours to drivers’ journeys, it’s understandable why many are left frustrated.

“Ultimately, delays do not only cost drivers valuable time but money too, due to the added cost of fuel from having to find an alternative, and often longer, route.

“Our advice to motorists is to plan ahead. Make sure you check for closures whenever you are about to make a journey that requires motorway driving to ensure you avoid delays.”


Notes to editors

Unless otherwise stated, all figures taken from omnibus research carried out by One Poll on behalf of This was an online poll of 2,000 UK adults who drive (nationally representative sample). The research was conducted between August and October 2016.

1. issued a Freedom of Information request to the Highways Agency England, Welsh Government Department for Economy and Infrastructure, and Transport Scotland which asked the following: 
a. How many motorways are there in the UK?
b. How many UK motorways are currently undergoing road maintenance work?
c. How many road maintenance projects are underway on UK motorways this year (2016 to date), compared to last year (2015) and the year before (2014)?
d. How long do road maintenance projects on motorways last on average?
e. Where is the longest stretch of roadworks in the UK currently?

2. Results pertaining to the average number of closures a month have been calculated as follows:
a. England is based on 234 days of closures in 2014 and 2015 and 235 days in 2016 due to the leap year. Wales is based on an assumed (based on definition of “YTD”) 298 days in 2016 and a full year in both 2014 and 2015. Scotland is based on 270 days in 2016 and a full year in both 2014 and 2015.
b. Each of the above (a), have been converted into weeks each year by dividing by 52.
c. Each of the above (a), have been converted into months each year by dividing by 12.
d. A month equates to 30.42 days in 2014/15 and 30.5 days in 2016.

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