Row erupts after thousands are delayed

ROADWORKS The hole being dug in London Road, Hilsea by Southern Gas Networks contractors which has caused the long queues of traffic this week
ROADWORKS The hole being dug in London Road, Hilsea by Southern Gas Networks contractors which has caused the long queues of traffic this week
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Accident in Gosport causes major delays

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A ROW has broken out over who is to blame for traffic chaos which has brought Portsmouth to a standstill for two days.

Thousands of people again found themselves stuck in long queues around the Hilsea roundabout yesterday after emergency gas works started on Monday.

Jams caused by the closure of the southbound carriageway of London Road stretched as far as Fareham, Purbrook and Hayling Island as motorists struggled to enter the city.

Many complained of confusing diversions and a lack of advance warning, with Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson blaming the gridlock on the Highways Agency’s refusal to put up signs.

But the authority was also criticised for not giving motorists more information about what was happening – with work set to continue for another two weeks.

Trevor Pearce, 65, of Sandy Point, Hayling Island, said in an effort to get into Hilsea he ended up driving for more than two hours.

‘It was ridiculous, absolutely unacceptable,’ he said. ‘If they want to dig up the road how about some information on the motorway letting people know what is happening?’

Miranda Hooper, manager of the Post Office on London Road, North End, said: ‘It was terrible, it took me 50 minutes to get to work from Waterlooville.

‘It’s crazy to think that closing just one road has caused all this mayhem.’

Pat Burton, from Treloggan Wigs on London Road, North End, said: ‘I was late for work because of it. I took a detour down Eastern Road but it still took me 15 minutes longer than usual to get into work.

‘The signs are not clear and it’s very confusing, especially if you don’t know the area.’

Emergency gas works began in London Road, opposite Hilsea Lido, after a leak was discovered that required urgent repairs.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson has written to the government about the problems and said the Highways Agency should be abolished.

‘They wouldn’t allow us to put up signs telling people there was a problem,’ he said. ‘They adamantly refused every request we have made and they own the slip road all the way down to the roundabout.’

But a spokesman for the government agency denied there was a dispute and said the two bodies were working together with Southern Gas Networks to manage the situation.

Conservative transport spokesman, Cllr Luke Stubbs, said it was not the first time the council had clashed with the quango.

He said: ‘We have had problems with them in the past, such as when they wanted to charge us thousands of pounds to put up a sign for the planned park and ride.

‘In situations like this central government and local government need to work together, not against one another.’

Simon Moon, head of transport and street management at the council, said: ‘We have a traffic plan in partnership with Colas, Southern Gas Networks and Hampshire Constabulary Safer Roads officers.

‘As you can imagine it’s a complex operation diverting traffic and making sure the roads are safe, but we are constantly monitoring the situation and making changes where possible.

‘Our advice to motorists is please be aware these works are happening and will unfortunately cause delays, so try to plan an alternative route or allow extra time in your journey for the next two weeks.’

He added that suggested alternative routes are Eastern Road, Anchorage Road and Norway Road; the M275 accessed from the A27; or Southampton Road, Spur Road, Havant Road and Eastern Road. New signs were also set to be put out to help motorists this morning.