HUNDREDS of motorists were stranded for hours on the M3 yesterday in what is believed to be the second chemical attack on Britain’s motorway network in less than a week.
The motorway was shut from the early hours after a hazardous material – reported to be hydrochloric acid – was spotted on a stretch in Hampshire.
A bomb disposal team rushed to the scene amid initial fears the substance might be part of an explosive device.
The incident comes just days after the M1 motorway was closed for nine hours in a similar attack, when hydrochloric acid was spread over two lanes.
A spokesman for Hampshire Police said: “Police were called at 3.49am to reports of potential hazardous material in the road.
“Our officers are working alongside partners from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team to establish exactly what it is. Investigations are continuing.”
Police have so far not ruled out foul play regarding the M1 closure, which shut an 11-mile stretch of the motorway for 10 hours on Tuesday morning.
However, they are not treating it as terror-related.
The acid, which at high concentration can burn skin and cause fatal injury, was pouring across the carriageway when police arrived to close the road, leaving commuters stranded.
Yesterday’s incident caused gridlock across Winchester and the surrounding area, with football fans travelling to a Southampton versus Manchester United match caught up.
Some motorists stuck in lengthy tailbacks were spotted driving the wrong way down the hard shoulder.
Manchester United fan Paul Hibbert was travelling with his friends to see his team on a coach.
The 53-year-old said: “People are driving up the hard shoulder – it’s chaos.”
Traffic England warned motorists to expect long delays and use alternative routes where possible, particularly football fans heading to the match.
The northbound lane was first to re-open at 1pm but southbound travellers were left waiting for another two and a half hours.