Heading onto the M25 for your commute to work or to fly from one of the nearby airports including Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted? Don't risk getting caught in traffic jams caused by the likes of collisions or breakdowns, simply use this guide from motoring journalist and expert Pete Barden to find your closest M25 emergency diversion or alternative route to skip the congestion and make sure you don't miss that flight or business meeting.Find junction-by-junction official emergency diversions on the M25 (Credit: Malc McDonald)
Have you seen, symbols such as triangles and squares on signs beside the M25? These are emergency diversion symbols designed to keep traffic flowing if there's a closure or major delay on UK's busiest motorway.
The good news is, they’re not just useful when the M25 is closed, drivers can also use them to beat traffic congestion at any time. Read on to see how they work and how motorists can use them to follow ‘emergency diversions’ and find alternative routes through local roads to avoid sections of the clogged M25 motorway.
What do the emergency diversion signs do and look like?
The symbols are typically filled or open triangles, diamonds, circles and squares found on M25 road signs.
Some myths say they are secret signs that direct high-ranking officials to the closest nuclear bunker should World War 3 break out.
The truth is less sinister but much more useful for the rest of us - the signs are there to set out the route for emergency diversions in the event of a major M25 closure.
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List of M25 emergency diversions routes covering all junctions
Looking for a list of emergency diversion routes? You can use our link to download and search a spreadsheet of all the emergency symbol routes across England.
You can search this sheet for the route you’re travelling, find the symbol – such as Open Diamond (OD) or Filled Diamond (FD) – and see how long the diversion is.
Keep this handy when on the road for instant access to the best diversion routes that even your sat nav doesn’t know. Remember to share this with friends and family.
Key and how to use: Find the junction you are close to by searching the list below, select the appropriate diversion and follow the emergency diversion symbol as listed below (see key
- Diversion: Length is stated in miles
- Symbols: OT = Open Triangle – OC =Open Circle – OD = Open Diamond – OS = Outline Square
- Symbols: FT = Filled Triangle – FC = Filled Circle – FD = Filled Diamond – FS = Filled Square
- Direction: CW - Clockwise – AC - Anti-clockwise
|Route||Direction||Symbol||Miles||Description of M25 diversion|
|M25||AC||OS||5.5||M25 JUNCTIONS 14 TO 13|
|M25||CW||OT||7.5||M25 JUNCTIONS 14 TO 15|
|M25||AC||OS||7.6||M25 JUNCTIONS 14 TO 15|
|M25||CW||OT||12.7||M25 JUNCTIONS 15 TO 16|
|M25||CW||OT||8.42||M25 JUNCTIONS 16 TO 17|
|M25||AC||OS||8.3||M25 JUNCTIONS 17 TO 16|
|M25||CW||OT||4.5||M25 JUNCTIONS 17 TO 18|
|M25||AC||OS||4.8||M25 JUNCTIONS 18 TO 17|
|M25||CW||OT||20||M25 JUNCTIONS 27 TO 29|
|M25||CW||OS||20||M25 JUNCTIONS 28 TO 27|
|M25||CW||OT||7.2||M25 JUNCTIONS 28 TO 29|
|M25||AC||OS||7||M25 JUNCTIONS 29 TO 28|
|M25||CW||OT||15||M25 JUNCTIONS 29 TO 30|
|M25||CW||OT||3||M25 JUNCTIONS 19 TO 20|
|M25||AC||OS||2.9||M25 JUNCTIONS J20 TO 19|
|M25||CW||OT||6||M25 JUNCTIONS 20 TO 21A|
|M25||AC||OS||5.7||M25 JUNCTIONS 21A TO 19|
|M25||CW||OT||6.3||M25 JUNCTIONS J21A TO 22|
|M25||CW||OS||6.8||M25 JUNCTIONS 22 TO 21A|
|M25||CW||OT||10||M25 JUNCTIONS 22 TO 23|
|M25||AC||OS||11||M25 JUNCTIONS 23 TO 22|
|M25||CW||OT||20||M25 JUNCTIONS 23 TO 25|
|M25||AC||OS||20||M25 JUNCTIONS 25 TO 23|
|M25||CW||OT||19.5||M25 JUNCTIONS 25 TO 27|
|M25||CW||OT||6||M25 JUNCTIONS 1A TO 2|
|M25||AC||OS||7||M25 JUNCTIONS 2 TO 1A|
|M25||CW||OT||6.5||M25 JUNCTIONS 1B TO 2|
|M25||AC||OS||6||M25 JUNCTIONS 2 TO 1B|
|M25||CW||OT||12||M25 JUNCTIONS 2 TO 3|
|M25||AC||OS||11||M25 JUNCTIONS 4 TO 3|
|M25||CW||OT||11||M25 JUNCTIONS 3 TO 4|
|M25||AC||OS||20||M25 JUNCTIONS 5 TO 3|
|M25||CW||OT||20||M25 JUNCTIONS 3 TO 5|
|M25||AC||OS||9.5||M25 JUNCTIONS 5 TO 4|
|M25||CW||OT||8.5||M25 JUNCTIONS 4 TO 5|
|M25||AC||OS||12||M25 JUNCTIONS 6 TO 5|
|M25||CW||OT||13||M25 JUNCTIONS 5 TO 6|
|M25||CW||OS||11||M25 JUNCTIONS 8 TO 6|
|M25||CW||OT||14||M25 JUNCTIONS 6 TO 7 VIA PURLEY|
|M25||AC||OS||20||M25 JUNCTIONS 10 TO 8|
|M25||CW||OT||17||M25 JUNCTIONS 7 TO 8 VIA PURLEY|
|M25||AC||OS||12||M25 JUNCTIONS 11 TO 10|
|M25||CW||OT||20.5||M25 JUNCTIONS 8 TO 10|
|M25||AC||OS||9||M25 JUNCTIONS 13 TO 11 (HIGH LOAD ROUTE)|
|M25||AC||OS||8||M25 JUNCTIONS 13 TO 11|
|M25||CW||OT||12||M25 JUNCTIONS 10 TO 11|
|M25||AC||OS||12||M25 JUNCTIONS 13 TO 12|
|M25||CW||OT||9||M25 JUNCTIONS 11 TO 13 (HIGH LOAD ROUTE)|
|M25||CW||OT||8.5||M25 JUNCTIONS 11 TO 13|
|M25||CW||OT||13||M25 JUNCTIONS 12 TO 13|
|M25||CW||OT||5.5||M25 JUNCTIONS 13 TO 14|
|M25||AC||OS||12.7||M25 JUNCTIONS 16 TO 15|
|M25||AC||OS||9||M25 JUNCTIONS 20 TO 18|
|M25||CW||OT||12||M25 JUNCTIONS 18 TO 21A|
|M25||AC||OS||19||M25 JUNCTIONS 27 TO 25 VIA A406|
|M25||AC||OS||15||M25 JUNCTIONS 30 TO 29|
|M25||AC||OS||28.5||M25 JUNCTIONS 2 TO 30|
|M25||CW||OT||28.5||M25 JUNCTIONS 30 TO 2|
Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.
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How do the emergency diversion signs work?
If part of a motorway or other major road is closed by a major incident, these symbols placed permanently on road signs can plot a route to the next junction to bypass the blockage.
There are various types of symbols, so that separate routes can run for cars and trucks - avoiding low bridges and the like. Sometimes, there will be just one route where no restrictions apply.
Where can I see the emergency diversion symbols?
When the motorway is closed you’ll see a sign telling you which symbol to follow – but what about when you’re just junction-hopping to beat jams? Read on
You might not always see them on the motorway itself, as many of them are on flaps that drop down in the event of an incident. Don’t worry if they haven’t triggered, just leave the motorway at the nearest junction and look for symbols as you join local roads.
Are the symbols all the same?
Look out for these ‘secret’ signs that could help you skip congested motorway junctions
The emergency diversion symbols will be placed on a yellow background. Look out for a triangle, diamond or circle shape. Take a look at road signs next time you’re out and about – you’ll see just how many there are.
Will the emergency diversion symbols help when the motorway is still open?
Yes. If the congestion is bad, leave the motorway and follow the first sign with one of the symbols on it. Then, keep following the same symbol to execute the carefully pre-planned route to avoid congestion and make it back to the next junction – where you can rejoin or carry on following the emergency diversion symbols. The ‘daisy chain’ effect will keep going until you beat the jam.
If there are two symbols on the sign, you should pull over for some quick research to help pick the best route for your vehicle. Read on below to find out how.
However, in a few cases, where there is more than one possible diversion, you might need to do a quick spot or web-based research to ensure you follow the right symbol. Read on for details.
How to make sure you follow the right emergency diversion symbol on road signs
In the event of an incident, Highways England will call local media companies to pass on the message and highlight the symbol to follow.
This information will remain online, so simply use Google or Twitter to search along the lines of:
“Emergency diversion symbol junction 10 M1 (replace with your motorway and junction)” for Google
#M25 Junction 9 symbol for Twitter
You will then be served historical data telling drivers which symbol to follow depending on what they’re driving and where they are going. It’s that simple and could save you hours of jam as you head to the airport etc. The information is unlikely to change over time, but be aware of the direction you should be travelling in.
Don’t use your mobile phone to check this information while driving. Don’t use the hard shoulder either – this is for emergencies only. A good idea would be pre-plan your diversions at known pinch-points, or get a passenger to search.
What about emergency diversion symbols in London?
Transport for London has a system to help drivers when crossings over or under the Thames are closed. Look out for black crosses – they will lead you to the nearest alternative crossing.
Can’t I just use my sat-nav for this?
Sat-nav devices do not have the expert knowledge possessed by those who plan out the emergency routes.
Local planners build them around obstacles – such as congestion pinch-points, low-bridges and dangerous road – that sat-nav devices might not be able to take into account.
Please note: Follow these signs at your own risk.. It is not possible to guarantee they will always be faster than remaining on the motorway.
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Author: Pete Barden:
Pete Barden is a qualified journalist who has written and produced for publications including The Sun (thesun.co.uk), New Statesman Media Group, Whatcar? (Whatcar.com) Stuff Magazine (Stuff.tv), Fastcar Magazine (Fastcar.co.uk), Maxim Magazine and UK broadcast stations within the Heart network (Formerly GCAP). Pete specialises in motoring and travel content, along with news and production roles. You can find out more about Pete Barden on LinkedIn.