M4 motorway in west London reopens after emergency repair

The BBC's Ben Geoghegan said traffic was flowing smoothly on Friday morning

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The main M4 motorway link between central London and Heathrow Airport has reopened in both directions.

The motorway had been closed between junctions two and three in west London since last Friday after a crack was found in the Boston Manor viaduct.

It was shut by the Highways Agency following the discovery in a "sensitive area" of the road structure.

Earlier, the agency said it expected all work to be finished before the start of the London Olympic Games.

The Highways Agency certainly dampened down expectation when it came to reopening the M4.

Having giving no indication last night that the guidance had changed from a reopening within "the next few days", this morning it was open (for cars only).

Of course, once bitten twice shy. Putting a deadline of Thursday on the reopening did not help when it was missed.

There will be huge relief amongst the Highways Agency and the Department for Transport. While the story has been drowned by the G4S security debacle, by Monday it would have become a huge embarrassment.

The image of an Olympic vehicle stuck in traffic on the A4 could have been beamed around the world.

The aftermath is harder to assess. When I asked the Roads Minister if a national audit was needed of our infrastructure he brushed it off as unnecessary. But many of our road structures are of a similar age and seem to be failing - for example the Hammersmith Flyover.

More public and political scrutiny of London's roads infrastructure is long overdue.

Restrictions on vehicles weighing more than 7.5 tonnes had been in place since March, when hairline cracks were discovered in some of the steel beams.

Problems began when workers "found a further crack in a sensitive location which requires us to keep the viaduct closed until the repair is complete".

'Millions use route'

Transport Minister Justine Greening said of the travel situation for the upcoming Games: "Obviously there will be disruption - it's almost impossible to have three million visitors in London on some days without it being a lot busier than normal.

"But I think we're well prepared, and hopefully we'll be able to have a fantastic Olympics."

John Woodcock MP, shadow transport minister, urged the authorities to ensure the problem was fixed permanently.

He said: "This is not just an Olympic highway.

"Millions of people use this route.

"They will want to to know the problem has been fixed properly, for good."

The M4 is the main route between Heathrow Airport and central London.

It is vital for transporting visitors into the city for the Games.

It is also the major road link from London to the West Country and south Wales, as well as being a heavily-used commuter route.

Just before Christmas, the Hammersmith Flyover - part of the same route in and out of the capital - was closed for five months after structural defects were found.

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