Thousands of Midland drivers were held up in miles of tailbacks after a fuel tanker burst into flames on the M42.
The tanker, carrying a split load of petrol and diesel, caught fire at around 6am yesterday between junctions five and six, southbound.
Both carriageways were completely shut off for nearly an hour-and-a-half as four fire trucks, from Bicken Hill, Ward End and two from Sheldon, tackled the blazing tanker.
Tom Whitfield, a 27-year-old IT auditor from Stirchley, was trapped for 90 minutes as he returned from London.
“It was absolute gridlock,” he said. “We were stuck just south of junction seven for well over an hour before we started crawling and eventually it cleared.
“There were people getting out of their cars and kids using the side of motorway to go to the toilet.
“Several people came past us wheeling suitcases along the hard shoulder as though they were trying to get off the motorway and to the airport.
“The matrix signs on the M6 didn’t give us proper warning of the problem or we would have avoided it.”
Stuart White, also aged 27, a print technician from Redditch, said: “It was very frustrating and not how I would have liked to spend my Sunday afternoon.
“A lot of people seemed very anxious to get off the motorway and it was very difficult to get any information about what had happened.”
A West Midlands Fire Service spokesman said the tanker’s rear axle had caught fire, but was stopped from spreading to the fuel load with firefighters using foam, hose reel jets and four breathing apparatus. Firefighters left the scene at around 2.15pm. Police and Highways Agency officials were also sent to the fire along with a chemical specialist from the tanker company.