Traffic on the M25 in Kent and Surrey had a clear run on Tuesday morning for the first time in four days following a fatal tanker crash on Friday.
The tanker overturned into a field at the side of the M25
Drivers endured miles of tailbacks after the motorway was closed between junctions 5 and 6 after the accident, in which the driver was killed.
The hard shoulder and inside lane remained shut anti-clockwise on Monday despite repair work over the weekend.
The tanker spilled 7,000 litres of fuel over the motorway and embankment.
Workers had to clear both the fuel and the fuel-contaminated soil from the roadside, adding to delays.
Drivers affected by the three-mile traffic jams told BBC South East Today they understood the crash was serious but wondered why the site had not been cleared earlier.
Traffic jams stretched for three miles
"It's clearly a very hazardous operation to recover it," said Tim Lyver of the Highways Agency.
"It was in the interest of the safety of the travelling public that both carriageways of the motorway had to be closed while the recovery operation went on," he said.
It had been feared the road might have needed to be resurfaced if the fuel had seeped in too deeply.
That would have caused traffic chaos for thousands commuters for days on what is Britain's busiest motorway.
At least 6,000 vehicles were believed to have been caught in traffic jams on the M25 on Saturday, with many more stuck on connecting roads.
A further 3,000 were caught on Sunday, after the clockwise section of the road had been reopened.
The driver killed in the crash has been named by Surrey Police as 30-year-old Stephen Goater, from Ilford in Essex.