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. (October 2017)
Carriageway widths of the M25 November 2009
Originally built almost wholly as a dual three-lane motorway, much of the motorway has been widened: to dual four lanes for almost half, to a dual five-lanes section between junctions 12 and 14 and a dual six-lane section between junctions 14 and 15. Further widening is in progress of minor sections with plans for managed motorways in many others.
To the east of London the two ends of the M25 are joined to complete a loop by the non-motorway A282 Dartford Crossing of the River Thames between Thurrock and Dartford. This crossing, which consists of twin two-lane tunnels and the four-lane QE2 (Queen Elizabeth II) bridge, is named Canterbury Way. Passage across the bridge or through the tunnels is subject to a toll, its level depending on the kind of vehicle. This stretch being non-motorway, it allows traffic, including that not permitted to use motorways, to cross the River Thames east of the Woolwich Ferry; the only crossing further to the east is a passenger ferry between Gravesend, in Kent, and Tilbury, in Essex. However, in 2017 Highways England published plans to build another motorway-grade Thames tunnel to the east of Gravesend and Grays, the Lower Thames Crossing, in order to relieve congestion on the A282 Dartford Crossing and connect the M25 at North Ockendon in Essex with the M2 in Kent.
At Junction 5, the clockwise carriageway of the M25 is routed off the main north–south dual carriageway onto the main east–west dual carriageway with the main north–south carriageway becoming the A21. In the opposite direction, to the east of the point where the M25 diverges from the main east–west carriageway, that carriageway become the M26 motorway.
The radial distance from London (taken as Charing Cross) varies from 12.5 miles (20.1 km) in Potters Bar to 19.5 miles (31.4 km) in Byfleet. Three Greater London boroughs (Enfield, Hillingdon and Havering) have realigned their boundaries to the M25 for minor stretches; while in others, most notably in Essex and Surrey, the radial gap between Greater London and the motorway reaches 7.8 miles (12.6 km), neither of which coincide with the Metropolitan Green Belt. Major towns listed as destinations (right), in various counties, adjoin the M25. North Ockendon is the only settlement of Greater London situated outside the M25. In 2004, following an opinion poll, the London Assembly mooted for consultation alignment of the Greater London boundary with the M25. "Inside the M25" and "outside/beyond the M25" are colloquial, looser alternatives to "Greater London" sometimes used in haulage. The Communications Act 2003 explicitly uses the M25 as the boundary in requiring a proportion of television programmes to be made outside the London area.
Two motorway service areas are on the M25, and two others are directly accessible from it. Those on the M25 are Clacket Lane between junctions 5 and 6 (in the south-east) and Cobham between junctions 9 and 10 (in the south-west). Those directly accessible from it are South Mimms off junction 23 (to the north of London) and Thurrock off junction 31 (to the east of London). Cobham services opened on 13 September 2012.
Originally, the M25 was unlit except for sections around Heathrow, major interchanges and Junctions 23–30. Originally, low pressure sodium (SOX) lighting was the most prominent technology used, but widening projects from the 1990s onwards have all used high-pressure sodium (SON) lighting and this has diminished the original installations. By 2014 only one significant stretch was still SOX-lit (Junction 25–26) and the units were removed the same year.
The motorway passes through five counties. Junctions 1A–5 are in Kent, 6–14 are in Surrey, 15–16 are in Buckinghamshire, 17–25 are in Hertfordshire, and 26–31 are in Essex. Policing of the road is carried out by an integrated policing group made up of the Metropolitan, Thames Valley, Essex, Kent, Hertfordshire and Surrey forces.
The M25 is one of Europe's busiest motorways. In 2003, a maximum of 196,000 vehicles a day were recorded on the motorway just south of London Heathrow Airport between junctions 13 and 14.