OXFORD’S roads were clogged yesterday as sewer works in one street brought the city to a standstill.
And there is little prospect the situation will improve over the next fortnight.
Thames Water began a two-week £60,000 emergency project to fix a sewer damaged by a build-up of fat and waste known as a ‘fatberg’.
Traffic winds its way along Botley Road towards Oxford Rail Station
Morning commuters reported huge delays as 10-minute drives turned into journeys of more than an hour and tailbacks stretched back on to the A34 to Abingdon.
A public transport worker said traffic, which was solid in Abingdon Road, Botley Road, Woodstock Road and Banbury Road, was “worse than during the floods”.
The so-called ‘fatberg’ that has caused the roadworks to take place
Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth last night said: “You would not think people pouring fat down their sink has caused major traffic disruption in Oxford.”
The Conservative said there was little the authority could do to ease the congestion other than urging commuters to use public transport and not to drive into Oxford all at once.
He said: “I must admit the feedback I have had is that it has been worse than expected, particularly given the notification people have had.”
Last week, Mr Hudspeth unveiled his vision for transport up to 2031 – including a monorail around the city – and last night he said the latest traffic chaos showed the county needed a “resilient” transport system.
A34 slip road at Botley
The works have shut Park End Street at its junction with Hollybush Row while the partially collapsed pipe is repaired.
Dr Hannah Thompson, 41, from Marston, was two hours late for a pre-booked train to Newcastle and had to spend £115 on another ticket.
She said: “It was just completely crazy. I should have walked – it would have been much quicker.“
Letting manager Kyley Dickinson, 28, was stuck on Botley Road for 35 minutes while travelling to work in Park End Street.
She said: “It just wasn’t moving at all. By McDonald’s the traffic lights were going red, green, red, green without being able to move.
“I thought that because it was half-term it would be a lot quieter but it wasn’t – it’s a bit frustrating.”
Oxford Bus Company said services were delayed for up to an hour and a half and three were cancelled.
Thames Water spokeswoman Sarah Sharpe said the repairs were essential and workers were managing the traffic flow using traffic lights.
But Oxford City Council leader Bob Price, above, said: “It is a very clear illustration of just how fragile Oxford’s traffic conditions are. One road taken out of service and the city just jams up.
“It is a massive inconvenience.
Wayne Gray, manager of Fat Phil’s Angling Centre in Abingdon Road, said he did not know about the works until yesterday morning.
He said: “People are telling me it is horrendous and in all directions.”
And he said the council should consider opening up the High Street to ease the congestion.
County council spokesman Marcus Mabberley said Park End Street was a “key location for the movement of traffic in Oxford”, adding: “Any disruption at such a location would result in congestion and delay increases.”
But he said the authority would not consider opening up bus lanes and lifting the High Street bus gate to help motorists because it would cause the bus services to suffer more delays.
He added: “It is the council’s experience when roadworks have taken place at a similar location that in time motorists become aware of works and seek an alternative route or alternative mode of transport into the centre of Oxford.”