THERE was chaos and mayhem on a major County Durham road today after a huge sinkhole appeared overnight in the middle of the road.

In shocking scenes, drivers were pictured as they flouted the rules and drove over a grassed area next to a footpath to get around road closure signs.

It comes as the signage leading up to the sinkhole site was heavily criticised and branded inadequate, while drivers said there were no clear diversions in place.

Read more: Consett man pleads guilty to causing death of pedestrian, 76, by dangerous driving

The sinkhole had been fenced off and the road was closed after the sinkhole appeared on the A694 at the junction with the B6310 near Medomsley, early yesterday evening.

The Northern Echo:

The closure happened on what is a major junction with roads leading, respectively, from Burnopfield, Medomsley, Hamsterley Mill and Rolands Gill, over the country border in Gateshead.

Read more: Police close B6309 near Medomsley in two places following incident

"This is madness", said one heavy lorry driver on Wednesday lunchtime, who complained the first he was aware of the closure was a sign a few hundred yards away.

He had driven from Rowlands Gill a few miles away and had to negotiate a tricky u-turn. 

The Northern Echo:

The sinkhole first appeared during rush hour on Tuesday (May 17) – miraculously no one was hurt. One driver described missing the hole by seconds.

Melanie O’Neill, 50, who lives nearby, said she had missed the sinkhole opening by "literally seconds".

She told The Northern Echo: "My house is just a little bit further up the road and by the time I had got there and was going to the pub it had all happened.

The Northern Echo:

"I don't know how I missed it and went over it. I was driving a big car and remarked to my husband 'I hope I haven't done anything'.

"I must have missed it by literally seconds. There was a big lorry behind me as well at the time because I noticed it. Somebody's car could have gone down there."

Emergency services were called out when the sinkhole formed.

The Northern Echo:

Following the sinkhole, Anthea Coxon, Durham County Council’s highways services manager, said: “We were made aware of a sinkhole on the A694/B6310 at Medomsley, early yesterday evening (Tuesday 17 May).

“Our emergency response team attended to make the area safe, with fencing erected. A diversion will also be put in place later today.

“Engineers are currently assessing the situation and trying to determine the cause. As part of this investigation, we are in contact with the Coal Authority and Northumbrian Water.

The Northern Echo:

The Northern Echo:

“Once the cause and scale of the sinkhole are established, a programme of repairs will begin as soon as possible.”

Addressing scenes of chaos earlier today, Durham County Council added: "We will be putting temporary signs out this afternoon at a number of locations to make people aware of the closure and the need to find an alternative route while we continue to work on implementing a diversion."

Durham Police spokesperson said: "The B6310 at Longclose Bank, Medomsley, has been closed due to a sinkhole.

"We’d ask people to avoid the area and find an alternative route."

The Northern Echo: The road closure on the A694The road closure on the A694


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