Drivers were snarled in delays of more than five hours on the M4 yesterday after a lorry carrying 24 tonnes of paper caught fire near the turn off for Bath.

Among those caught up in the delays was former Gazette reporter Nigel Kerton, of St Margarets Mead, in Marlborough, who has made an official complaint to the Highways Agency over the way it handled the problem. He is also raising the issue with North Wiltshire MP James Gray and the police.

There was no indication of trouble ahead when he joined the motorway at junction 16 at 4.15pm heading to Bristol but within miles he came to a standstill, with drivers queuing to get off at Chippenham and access the Leigh Delamere services.

"It took us five hours to get to the Bath turning," he said. "Just before the turning was a lorry on fire on the hard shoulder and only the outside lane was kept open to cope with all the rush hour traffic.

"The situation was badly handled by the authorities. Why is it that someone, somewhere didn't press the button to put on the gantry signs to say the motorway was closed?

"We only lost time but hundreds of people must have missed vital hospital appointments or flights at Bristol Airport."