Motorists and residents have criticised highways bosses after dozens of cars were scratched and damaged when a re-built width restriction on a residential road was re-opened.

Hertfordshire Highways spent five days re-building the section, in Woodmere Avenue, Watford, but within one hour of it being opened, residents claimed "there were wing mirrors and glass everywhere".

Police were forced to close the road, while council workmen returned to shorten the steel posts, but residents claim the restriction is still too narrow.

Since the road reopened on Friday, about 30 complaints have been lodged with Hertfordshire Highways, which manages residential and A-roads in the county.

Rose Stanton, 85, whose house is immediately next to the width restriction, said: "When they opened it, cars were just hitting their wing mirrors. There were bits of car lying all over the road.

"A funeral procession tried to get through and got stuck. They were ages out there - it was awful.

"It has been chaotic here since Friday. I just sit here and hear 'bang bang bang' as cars go through it."

The width restriction on Woodmere Avenue

As the Watford Observer spoke with concerned residents, who came out to measure the gap, three drivers hit the restriction, and another four got stuck completely.

Father-of-three Tim Vigor, 42, of Woodmere Avenue, said: "If anyone doesn't want to slow down, nothing stops them going through the bus lane. I've seen two BMWs, a transit van and a Sainsbury's delivery truck all hit the posts.

"My drive gets covered in plastic and glass, and I've got children here and a dog - it's not right."

The section, first installed about ten years ago, allows buses to pass through the middle of the road, while ordinary drivers are forced to negotiate a narrow passage through steel posts either side.

Residents asked for the measures after lorries began using the road as a short-cut between the A41 and the Colonial Way Business Park.

Council officials claim the work, which cost taxpayers more than £18,000, was carried out after they received further complaints that the previous restriction was ineffective.

Rose's son, Derek Stanton, 66, said: "It didn't work before because the lorries went through the bus lane, but they can still do that now. Instead, the ordinary motorists are having problems. It doesn't do what it is supposed to do."

The posts are seven feet apart, while a Range Rover Vogue, for example, measures 7.2 feet wide, with the wing mirrors, or 6.67 feet without.

Watford Borough Councillor Kelly Mcleod (Liberal Democrat, Tudor Ward) said: "My husband has a sports car but I won't drive it down that road now.

"Some of the 4x4s and people carriers will have trouble getting through, and it has made it nigh on impossible to turn left out of Douglas Avenue in one manoeuvre, because it is so tight."

Hertfordshire County Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst (Liberal Democrat, Central Watford and Oxhey), who sits on the authority's highways and transport panel, said: "If people can't drive through it, maybe they shouldn't be on the road.

"If people are using the bus lane, it is a police issue, and we will seek the proper enforcement. People need time to get used to it - if this is still a problem in a month's time, it will need looking at."

The maximum punishment for driving in the bus lane is a £60 fine and a three-point penalty.

A Hertfordshire County Council representative said: "The posts kept getting knocked over so, last week, we installed much sturdier ones.

"The taller posts led to several complaints on Friday. In light of this we lowered them so they are now below the height of wing mirrors on most models of cars."