Traffic was gridlocked in Todmorden last weekend after works to replace gas pipes began on Saturday morning.
Drivers were questioning the timing of the decision after traffic lights, installed at Rochdale Road’s junction with Rise Lane, led to massive tailbacks on one of the busiest shopping days of the week.
At times traffic was reported to be tailed back approximately two miles down Halifax Road, level with the household waste recycling site at Eastwood, and also stretching into Walsden village a mile and a half away in the Rochdale Road direction.
The lights were still in force this week, causing delays especially at rush hour traffic times.
At the weekend they delayed the journey of some of the young prize winners at Todmorden Art Group’s annual exhibition at Todmorden Town Hall but Mayor of Todmorden Coun Jayne Booth, making the awards, stayed behind the ensure a warm welcome and congratulations were given to them.
And another side effect was traffic becoming jammed on the tops as drivers tried to cut out the town centre by using Woodhouse Road and Lumbutts Road on the hilltops - this had limited access as Todmorden Harriers were hosting their prestigious Shepherd’s Skyline race on Saturday. The Harriers have pointed out that there are usually no problems when they stage this popular race and would not have been this year but for the town centre situation.
But Northern Gas Networks said the works were necessary, apologised for the inconvenience caused to drivers and said that they hoped to have completed the work and removed the lights by today.
One fuming motorist said what should have been a short journey home on Saturday afternoon from Hebden Bridge to Walsden after returning from a rail journey - work on the Todmorden Curve was also being carried out - had taken well over an hour.
“The ‘walking crossing’ lights near the temporary traffic lights at Rise Lane hadn’t been switched off. The whole thing is a farce,” he said.
A spokesman for Northern Gas Networks said: “It is work to replace the ageing metal gas pipes with durable plastic ones to ensure a safe and reliable supply of gas to the town.
“We hope to remove them by Thursday at the latest.
“In all we are replacing 2.8km of metal pipe in the Todmorden area which is a £270,000 investment. We would like to thank the public for their patience and support during the works and apologise for the inconvenience caused.”
The service liaised with Calderdale Council as traffic management had to be agreed with the council prior to work taking place.
Calderdale Council’s head of planning and highways, Geoff Willerton, said this week: “All utility companies, whether gas, electric or water, have a duty to notify the council as well as each other when planning any road works. This is managed on an electronic system, which is used nationally.
“Whilst we don’t supervise the works, we have the power as highways authority to impose restrictions on planned works if we feel it’s necessary; for example we may ask that the work is done outside of the rush hour to limit disruption.
“In this case we were notified of the works, which are essential so they needed to start as soon as possible. They were planned to begin at the weekend to try to minimise disruption. The works are expected to end this Wednesday.”