Drivers who have been stuck in stationary traffic for nearly 12 hours have been forced to abandon their cars as a major UK motorway is closed over a bomb scare for the second time in a week.
The M3 was shut down in both directions from junctions nine to 11 in Hampshire at 4am today after police were called to a ‘serious incident’ near a footbridge between junctions 10 and 11.
A motorist caught up in the miles of stationary traffic said a police officer described the hold up as a ‘bomb scare’.
Some frustrated drivers have abandoned their cars and headed to the nearest service stations and pubs in search of subsistence, as Manchester United fans battle to get to the 3pm game against Southampton in time.
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The M3 has been closed in Hampshire between junctions nine to 11 since 4am this morning
Hampshire Police said they were working with fire crews and the Ministry of Defence’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) to try to find out what the suspect package may be
The incident comes after a wave of similar bomb scares across the country in the wake of the Parsons Green tube attack, where at least 30 people were injured.
There have been explosion fears reported in Moorgate and Liverpool Street station in London, Leeds city centre, and a residential road in Royal Tunbridge Wells.
And just days ago, the M1 was closed for nine hours in both directions after a suspicious package was found near a motorway bridge near Milton Keynes.
The bound carriageway was re-opened at 1.40pm, according to police, but hundreds of drivers are still stranded.
Fire crews and ambulance hazardous response team also attended the scene.
According to Highways England traffic updates, the road will not be re-opened until 7.15pm at the earliest.
Pictures posted on social media show bored drivers resorting to doing handstands and playing golf while they wait for the issue to be resolved
One frustrated motorist is pictured passing the time by playing golf on the side of the M3
Coach passengers are pictured waiting on the edge of the M3 as police deal with the ‘bomb scare’
Gemma McKenna was stuck in the M3 traffic chaos for five hours before she gave up hope and found a pub nearby
Hampshire Police said they were working with fire crews and the Ministry of Defence’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) to try to find out what the suspect package may be.
A police statement read: ‘The road is still closed at this time, and we will endeavour to get the material cleared as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience, and please keep an eye on our social media channels for further updates.’
A bomb squad used a robot to investigate the item which was found to contain no explosives.
Bomb disposal units are pictured on the M3, although police have only confirmed it as a ‘serious police incident’
Explosive experts are pictured responding to the ‘serious incident’ near a footbridge on the M3 between junctions 10 and 11
A bomb disposal expert is pictured examining the suspicious item found under a bridge on the M3 in Hampshire
Forensic teams are now examining the scene and a police cordon remains in place over a pedestrian bridge.
Grace Cameron, 24, was travelling down from London to Dorset for the weekend with her friends when they were caught in the traffic near Winchester.
Ms Cameron told MailOnline: ‘We were travelling down from London to Dorset for the weekend when we hit the traffic at around 9am.
‘The journey would usually only take around two and a half or three hours but we’ve been struck in the same position for hours.
‘People are getting out of their cars and playing football and walking their dogs. There are other people driving on the hard shoulder trying to get out. It’s a really hot day and no one has told us anything.’
During the four hours they had been in the traffic, Ms Cameron said she had moved just 600 meters. She had also spotted five unmarked white vans drive with other police cars driving along the hard shoulder.
Some drivers have walked to the nearest service station in Winchester as they wait for the road to re-open
Pictures taken by Twitter users show drivers and their passengers stretching their legs
The 24-year-old also said people were being forced to urinate on the roadside and no water had been offered to motorists.
Some drivers have resorted to amusing ways to pass the time, with one photographed doing a handstand and another playing golf.
The closures will cause major traffic delays for thousands of Manchester United fans heading down to Southampton for the 3pm kickoff at St Mary’s stadium.
Manchester United fan Paul Hibbert was travelling with his friends to see the game but decided to leave the coach and make the one-and-a-half-mile journey to Winchester station by foot, walking along the hard shoulder to junction nine.
The 53-year-old, from Manchester, 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.
‘We got the National Express at quarter past midnight to London and got the 8am bus to Southampton – it’s 1pm now.’
Photos posted on social media show the huge tailbacks drivers are being forced to endure
The Highways Agency has warned motorists to expect severe delays for a number of hours
People on social media have complained about the lack of information being given out about the road closures, with some reporting to have been stuck in traffic for hours.
Witness Jenna Keating, 31, a writer from Windsor, told the Press Association: ‘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’.
‘They also said the delay had been quite well advertised, although none of the four of us in the car saw anything until we were in it.
‘We’re one of the lucky ones, we’ve only been here for 40 minutes although we’ve basically only crawled forward into space probably left by those who are trying to turn around.
‘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, stranded at Winchester service station since around 9.30am, said the incident brought out ‘the best of the British spirit’.
Emergency vehicles are pictured on the M3 as they respond to the ongoing ‘bomb incident’
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.
‘The sun is shining, the weather is warm, I’m quite happy here to be honest. It would be different if I was stuck in the car with a load of screaming kids, but I’m not.
‘It’s moments like this that you see the best of the British spirit.
‘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.’
Footage from the motorists show cars driving along the hard shoulder in a bid to escape the travel chaos.
Pictures posted on Twitter by drivers also show that some of the country roads near Winchester are now filling up with cars as the tailbacks from the motorway build up along nearby routes.
Country roads near Winchester are also filling up with cars because of the M3 closure
Cyclists on country roads near the M3 in Hampshire are also suffering the effects of the motorway closure