Gas works have caused traffic chaos on main roads through Watford.

Motorists are reporting 300 yard journeys taking an hour after Hertfordshire County Council closed part of Wiggenhall Road on Monday for gas main work between Lammas Road and Blackwell Drive.

Work is expected to last five weeks and make up the next phase of the link road to the proposed Health Campus.

Those living near Watford Fields said the works were an “accident waiting to happen” as motorists continue to avoid the diversion signs and drive down Watford Fields Road.

Lisa Chapman works at the Watford Fields School Infants & Nursery. The 27-year-old, who lives in Lammas Road, said: “It's absolute madness, the road is being used as a rat run.

“We were promised the road would not be used as a short cut.

“Last night was absolutely awful. People are beeping through the night and we all have kids trying to sleep (below).

Watford Observer:

“It is nerve-wracking, we are worried about accidents and the traffic having a knock on effect around the town.”

The road is closed off to motorists heading south towards Bushey, Oxhey and Northwood.

Traffic on the ring road was almost at a standstill on Monday and Tuesday night and motorists on other major roads around the town centre also faced severe delays.

Traders fear the works will impact business. Andrew Stoker set up motorcycle and scooter dealership AVSCO in 2006.

He says business is down by more than 60 per cent since the health campus roadworks started in November.

He said: “This is causing the traffic round the ring road and Watford Fields to be at a standstill - this is not helping businesses round here.

"Customers' will not come to Wiggenhall Industrial Estate and we will lose money.”

The 53-year-old added: “Customers have been very honest and said they don’t want to come down due to the dirt and traffic.

“Two have even had accidents in the roadworks.

"We are sat here twiddling our thumbs. We are suddenly going to be in a lot of debt and are very worried.

“We are worried in the long term we will lose our customers.”

Labour group leader Cllr Nigel Bell said: “Watford's traffic is so near the capacity for our roads that the slightest problem causes gridlock.

“I believe the reason why Wiggenhall Road is closed for five weeks is that to keep two lanes open would be more costly and eat into the profits from the new ‘Health Campus’ housing development.

“So there are five weeks of traffic misery ahead as people who live and work in Watford pick up the bill in wasted time, pollution and fuel costs.”

The location of the works.

Elected Mayor Dorothy Thornhill said: “This is a road for the benefit of our hospital, new, homes and jobs we need it. Those new facilities need new gas pipes.

“It is awful that the traffic is so disruptive. I hope it will settle down in the meantime.

“Closure of the lane is the safest option and has the least impact on traffic compared with traffic lights. The decision, taken by Herts Highways, has nothing to do with cost."

Herts Highways, which is responsible for the roads, has put up some more signs urging motorists not to ignore the diversion.

Stephen Giles Medhurst, county councillor for the area, said: “Experience of such major roadworks is that the first couple of days are the worst as many people forget or are unaware of or ignore the signage notifying them of the diversion and then things calm down as they find other routes.

“If it does not get better during the course of the week, we will clearly have to force the county to consider whether any further steps can be taken.”

The council has now suspended the parking bays by Watford Fields, and residents say the traffic has improved.

Watford Borough Council spokesman Angela Farrance said: “This work will help us speed up access to Watford Hospital.

“We will be monitoring traffic over the coming days to ensure that all that can be done to keep traffic flowing is put in place.”