Industry rocked by cost of IRA attacks on motorways

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The Independent Online
Police officers met yesterday to review the terrorist attacks and security alerts which caused transport chaos twice in the past 10 days.

After more searches, the M6 was reopened just before 3pm yesterday after a 30-hour closure estimated to have cost industry pounds 70m. The AA said the planting of two bombs on the M6 and two hoax devices on the M1 led to "the worst incidence of traffic congestion seen in this country". The security operation, which began at 8am on Thursday, is believed to have disrupted the journeys of almost 1 million motorists.

In Chester, John Grieve, National Co-ordinator for Anti-Terrorism, and members of his Metropolitan Police team met specialist officers from the North-west and Midlands to plan against more attacks on the transport network. Business leaders said that the cost of the motorway disruption ran at about pounds 2.5m an hour. Every day 180,000 drivers, including 77,000 lorries, use the three stretches of the M6, M1 and M5 that were closed.

The knock-on effect of taking this traffic off the motorways was felt across the Midlands. Congestion was reported yesterday on A roads throughout Staffordshire, with traffic at a standstill around Cannock, Stafford and Walsall. "The effects will be mainly felt by the freight industry and distributors but also right across the country," said Tony Bradley, policy director of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. "This is the crossroads and the most important link of Britain's motorway network and I'm a little surprised this hasn't happened earlier." Geoff Dossetter, of the Freight Traffic Association, said the journeys of more than 100,000 goods vehicles had been disrupted.

He said: "A large lorry costs pounds 1 a mile to run, so if you have to make a 100-mile detour and get stuck on jams on unsuitable roads, then the costs will escalate horribly. Modern life is delivered on the back of a lorry, so this has been mind-numbingly horrendous."

The IKEA furniture company is also counting the cost after it closed its store on a retail park off Junction nine on the M6 on police advice to avert further traffic disruption. "We are usually very busy in the second week of Easter and as a family firm we would have hoped to see up to 10,000 people visiting the store. Having one of our seven stores shut for two days does have an effect on our takings," a spokesman said.

r Police in the Irish Republic have discovered a second underground firing range hidden in woodland at an IRA training camp in County Monaghan, near the border with Northern Ireland, writes Alan Murdoch

The long tunnels were constructed at a site apparently chosen for its remoteness. They were found two miles into the forest during a four-week Garda search backed by Irish Army soldiers in the Knockatallon area, near the village of Scotstown.

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