Southern Gas faced a storm of protest after its workmen brought rush hour misery to thousands of Portsmouth commuters.
Police had to close the main motorway route into the city for 75 minutes as emergency work on a gas leak caused massive disruption.
Later, Southern Gas called off the repairs and ordered a ‘rethink’ after realising the chaos it had created.
Angry company bosses, many nearly two hours late for important jobs and meetings, demanded a full-scale inquiry into the snarl-up.
Portsmouth businessman Edward Cooper, caught in the disruption’s midst, said: ‘It is a disgrace. I have had a meeting shattered which took seven weeks to set up. I am furious.
‘There must have been 20,000 cars trapped – and all for a 4ft hole in the road.’
Another fuming boss told The News: ‘Why did Southern Gas not wait an hour before starting so that the rush could pass?’
Thousands of vehicles were caught in a three mile tailback stretching from Hilsea to Commercial Road.
The M275 was closed for 75 minutes, causing diversions, as police battled the jam.