ust Stop Oil protesters have returned to the M25 and Dartford crossing as another morning of chaos looms for London commuters on Tuesday.
Around 15 activists scaled overhead metal structures at a number of junctions on the motorway at about 7am, with one protester climbing a gantry on the north-bound lane of the M25 at the Dartford crossing.
The Dartford tunnel was shut from around 7.30am but reopened shortly beore 9am, though traffic was left tailing back for six miles.
Officers from Hertfordshire Police, Essex Police and Surrey Police remained at various locations around the M25, dealing with other protests. Sixteen activists have been arrested.
Matt Twist, assistant commissioner in Met Operations at the Met Police, slammed the “irresponsible action” saying it would “bring misery to thousands of commuters and businesses”.
As of about 11am, three sections of the M25 remained shut, according to National Highways.
The motorway was closed in both directions between junctions 15 and 16, junctions 21 and 20, and junctions 25 and 27.
National Highways said: “There are long delays approaching all of the closure points. Road users may wish to reroute or even delays their journey.
“Due to the nature of the incident, we are not able to advise when the road will reopen.”
Surrey Police confirmed shortly before 9am that traffic would soon begin moving between junction 7at Merstham and junction 8 at Reigate, after an activist was brought down from a gantry and arrested.
Kent Police added that it arrested two protesters at junction 1b, while Essex Police arrested another woman it brought down from a gantry over junction 31.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed at about 11am that a total of 16 protesters were arrested on Tuesday morning, in a joint operation by the Met, and forces in Essex, Surrey and Kent.
Hertfordshire Police said on Twitter shortly before 7.30am: “Officers are on scene and dealing with protesters who have climbed on to motorway gantries between J8-9 and J12-13 along the M25 this morning. Traffic is currently stopped in both directions at these junctions. Thanks for your patience, we’ll update as soon as possible.”
Essex Police added at 7.45am: “We are currently on scene at the north-bound track of the M25 at the Dartford River Crossing where a protester has climbed on to the gantry at junction 31. Dartford tunnel and two lanes are closed. We are working as quickly as we can to keep you moving.”
Activists targeted gantries between junctions 7 and 8, junctions 8 and 9, and junctions 12 and 13, police said.
Just Stop Oil said in a statement: “From 7am, approximately 15 supporters of Just Stop Oil climbed onto the overhead gantries of the M25 in multiple locations, both clockwise and anti-clockwise causing police to halt traffic.”
In a video posted on Twitter, Just Stop Oil activist Charlotte Kirin from Bury St Edmunds, who was atop a gantry at junction 31 on the M25 on Tuesday morning, explained her motivations.
“I’m a parent, a social worker, a carer for my mother who has Alzheimer’s disease, and I’m on a gantry at junction 31 northbound of the M25, supporting Just Stop Oil’s demands for no new oil and gas licences and a fair transition to sustainable energy so that we can all have a future,” the 53-year-old said.
National Highways warned drivers on the M25 to expect lengthy delays.
It said: “South-East@HighwaysSEASTTraffic is being held northbound at the #A282 #DartfordCrossing due to an @EssexPoliceUK led incident. There are delays of 60 minutes and 5 miles of congestion on the approach. Road users may wish to reroute or delay their journey.”
The protest comes after similar action on Monday, which saw at least 23 Just Stop Oil protesters climb gantries at M25 junctions in London, Surrey, Essex and Kent, causing traffic chaos.
The activist group has been carrying out regular protests – including daily action throughout October – as it calls for the Government to halt all new oil and gas licences.