Thousands of motorists faced traffic jams lasting more than an hour after a series of accidents.

Three lanes on the M42 were closed for eight hours overnight when a lorry carrying hay crashed and caught fire between junctions 3 and 3A.

The road had to be resurfaced because of the intensity of the heat, so by 7am one lane of the southbound carriageway and the hard shoulder were still closed for repairs.

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A Birmingham University student claimed she missed her end-of-course exams after being caught in the gridlock for an hour.

Ruth White, aged 24, was travelling from her home in Monks Kirby, near Rugby, into Birmingham to take two exams which would enable her to gain her youth worker qualification.

Meanwhile, an accident on the A45 turn-off to the NEC and Birmingham International Airport closed the roundabout there for some time, causing queues at all its turn offs.

In addition, an accident on the M1 overnight led to gridlock by 7am between junctions 18 to 16 southbound as road-users sought to escape the queues by exiting onto the M40 and M42. n Four people were taken to hospital after an ambulance crashed into a van and flipped on to its side.

The van driver and two paramedics were taken to hospital with minor injuries after the crash on Cannock Road, Chase Terrace, Staffordshire, yesterday.

Another woman, who was observing the paramedics, was flown to hospital with back and neck injuries.