IT WAS a rush hour drive home from hell for motorists using the Dartford Crossing to travel into Essex last night (December 17).

A serious crash involving two lorries just metres outside the Dartford Tunnel in Essex resulted in a large spillage of diesel and engine oil shortly after 2pm.

As a result, all three lanes of the carriageway were closed for nearly 12 hours and motorists were diverted off the motorway at junction 30 along a narrow slip road.

The Dartford Tunnels were periodically closed to prevent vehicles queuing inside and traffic was stationary beyond junction four at Orpington well into the evening.

Overnight, Highways Agency traffic officers and contractors set about resurfacing 200 square metres of damaged road in time for the morning rush hour today (December 18).

Although there were fears late last night the road may not be re-surfaced in time for this morning, all work was completed by 2:30am and the road was re-opened shortly afterwards.

Local roads surrounding Horton Kirby, Darenth, Green Street Green and Bean suffered hugely as a result of the delays, with many crawling for several hours after the usual rush hour period had passed.

Single-carriageway Shellbank Lane, which runs between Green Street Green and Bean High Street, was among those gridlocked by traffic trying to avoid queues on the main road.

The A2 was also congested in both directions close to the Darenth Interchange as well as further westbound towards Dartford Heath, as drivers chose to avoid the queues and try their luck at the Blackwall Tunnel – which was also heavily congested as a result.

As the evening went on, the Highways Agency recommended traffic travelling anti-clockwise into East Anglia should head clockwise around the motorway instead.

This meant motorists driving from Dartford to Thurrock faced a 124-mile diversion, rather than their usual five-mile drive through the tunnels.

Firefighters from two stations in Essex spent more than three hours at the scene of the accident, using four sets of cutting equipment to free a man in his 20s who was trapped inside one of the lorries.

It was not until 5:15pm that they managed to cut the man, who comes from Canvey Island, free.

He was airlifted to Queen's Hospital in Romford where he is today (December 18) in a stable condition.