Handout photo taken with permission from the Twitter feed of Simon Read of a Royal Navy bomb disposal unit on the M3. Photo credit: Simon Read/Twitter/PA Wire

The M3 motorway in Hampshire was closed for several hours on Saturday (23) after a potentially hazardous material was discovered.

The road is a main route for drivers to an from the Isle of Wight via Southampton.

At 3.49am on Saturday, police were called to the road following reports of potentially hazardous material in the carriageway.

As a result, the motorway was shut for approximately 11 hours between junctions 9 and 11 to allow police, in partnership with specialist hazardous material officers and an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team, to assess the substance.

A Hampshire Constabulary spokesperson said:

“We recognise that this caused extensive disruption for members of the public going about their daily business, but we would like to reassure you that public safety was our top priority as we investigated matters further.

“Early assessments indicate that this was a flammable material, not explosive material, which had been thrown from the motorway bridge which leads to St Catherine’s Hill. Nobody was hurt, and there is no wider risk to public safety as a result.

“Assessments to determine exactly what the material is are still on-going at this time.

“We have been utilising a wealth of expertise, across policing and our partners, to assess the risk to public safety, and we stress that at this time this is not being treated as a terrorist incident.

“Officers are aware of, and are investigating, a similar incident which took place on the same bridge last week, at around 4am on Saturday 16 September.

“In this incident, an object was dropped into the carriageway and we received further reports that something was alight in the same location.

“Officers attended and found a quantity of broken glass but no fire. A lane 1 closure was put in place for a very short time, to allow the debris to be cleared. No-one was hurt during this incident.

“We know that a lot of people use this route at that time as part of their daily routine, and we urge anyone who witnessed either of these incidents, or who has any information, to contact police immediately on 101.

“Did you see anyone on the bridge? We know dog walkers use the areas either side of the bridge. Did you see anyone acting suspiciously in the area?

“We thank you for your patience and co-operation as we investigated the incident, but again would like to reassure you that this is not being treated as a terrorist incident.”