Theft, rain and school return causes traffic chaos for Portsmouth commuters

SLOW GOING Traffic heading out of Portsmouth on London Road yesterday.  Picture: Paul Jacobs (113163-2)
SLOW GOING Traffic heading out of Portsmouth on London Road yesterday. Picture: Paul Jacobs (113163-2)
M27. Picture: Malcolm Wells

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A PERFECT storm of roadworks, bad weather, metal thieves and youngsters heading back to school threw Portsmouth into commuter chaos yesterday.

Drivers, train travellers, schoolchildren, holiday makers and ferry passengers were stuck in queues with many delayed for more than an hour as they tried to travel during the rush hour.

Heavy rain, high winds, road projects and the first day of the new term at many city schools were blamed for the gridlock, which saw vehicles almost at a standstill between 8am and 9.30am.

Roadworks at Burrfields Road, Copnor, and Western Road, Cosham, played their part in the congestion.

Fon Kalawan, a spokeswoman for Colas, the company organising the work, said other factors also played a part.

She said: ‘Every year, when the children go back to school, there is road congestion. For the past six weeks, people have got used to quieter roads and leaving later for work. Then parents take their children to a new school for the first day. The rain probably convinced more people to go by car and the roadworks will have added to the delays.’

Burrfields Road is closed to improve the rail bridge and renew traffic lights at the road’s junction with Copnor Road.

The project began in July and is expected to take until September 26. Adding to the trouble, Western Road, close to IBM, was closed to allow a new access road to be built to the company’s Lakeside, North Harbour offices.

Both the road’s lanes heading west towards Portsbridge roundabout are shut, and are scheduled to remain closed until Saturday.

As the traffic jams built up police advised Colas, which is overseeing the work for another firm, to reopen one lane to help ease the congestion.

Many youngsters were held up in the chaos.

Mike Smith, headteacher of City of Portsmouth Boys School on London Road, Hilsea, said: ‘A large number of boys were late, as traffic was blocked all the way back to St Mary’s hospital.

‘But this happens every so often and we make allowances.’

Torrential rain, which started early yesterday morning, played a part, but the Met Office forecasts only showers for the rest of the week.

Rail commuters were delayed by a failed wire theft at a signal box between Littlehampton and Ford. It took place at 12.10am, when wire was cut, but not removed. It was replaced by 9am.

Both Brittany Ferries’ high-speed services from Portsmouth to Cherbourg scheduled for yesterday, were cancelled due to the weather. And Wightlink arranged a charter service to replace several journeys of its Portsmouth-Ryde catamaran, due to high winds.