'NIGHTMARE' roadworks that have caused relentless disruption on one of Oxford's busiest roads could continue until Christmas.

Motorists have already endured weeks of misery on Botley Road due to SGN gas works, and businesses say the prospect of sitting in traffic has 'killed' customer footfall.

Signs said the works near Osney Bridge would take seven weeks, but the end date logged on roadworks.org has now changed to December 23.

SGN spokesman Bradley Barlow said: "We've been working in Botley Road since Monday, July 29, and we expect to complete our work before Christmas.

"We understand people can get frustrated by roadworks - however, the new plastic pipe has a minimum lifespan of 80 years.

"This means that when the work is complete, Oxford businesses and residents will continue to enjoy the benefits of a safe and reliable gas supply for years to come."

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The gas company is replacing old metal gas mains with new plastic pipe.

Three-way traffic lights are in place at the Ferry Hinksey Road junction, which are manually controlled between 7.30am and 7.30pm, and the bus lane has been closed.

It is not clear if the works will be continuous until Christmas, or if there will be roadwork-free periods.


Traffic yesterday. Pic: Ed Nix

A spokesman for Oxfordshire County Council, which oversees the county's roads, said yesterday: "The works are expected to be in place for around another three weeks, to carry out repairs adjacent to West Oxford Community Centre.

"After that we are expecting them leave site until the next scheme is launched."

A date for the next scheme has not yet been confirmed.

The congestion has clogged up surrounding city centre roads, with roundabouts in Frideswide Square frequently gridlocked during evening rush hour.

Among those affected by the works are hundreds of people who work at Osney Mead Industrial Estate, which is accessed via Ferry Hinksey Road.

As well as the Oxford Mail offices, the estate is home to many businesses, including Aldens Butchers.

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Managing director Matthew Alden said the congestion was 'killing business' and the disruption has been 'a nightmare'.

He said if the works do continue into December, it could be 'devastating' for trade.


Matthew Alden at the Osney site. Picture by Ed Nix


Traffic yesterday. Pic: Ed Nix

Mr Alden added: "If it's going up to Christmas, there will be a terrible bottleneck of queues going to the Westgate Centre.

"We have two retail shops on the estate and this has massively affected us.

"We are trying to do as much as we can for our customers, a loyalty scheme for example, so they go the extra mile and come down Botley Road.

"Our numbers have unfortunately fallen, because customers can't put up with it, which is understandable.

"On the catering business side, our deliveries can't get out on time.

"I know the workforce are doing their best and gas works have to be done, but people are certainly avoiding the city centre."

The family-run firm has complained to SGN, and could be compensated.

Mr Alden said even after SGN finish, that might not be the end.

He added: "There is always something going on on Botley Road.

"Before you know it, they'll be digging it up again."

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Bus passengers have also been affected, with Oxford Bus Company repeatedly reporting delays during peak times.


A hole in Botley Road yesterday. Pic: Ed Nix

The company's managing director, Phil Southall, said: "Any prolonged disruption isn’t welcome as it exasperates the congestion problems in Oxford and impacts so many people.

"This issue highlights why the traffic congestion management proposals outlined by Oxfordshire County Council this week are so important.

"Collectively all key stakeholders need to work together on better solutions, so people are not deterred from travelling and we can provide customers with greater certainty on their journey time."

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On Monday the council passed a new policy, giving it more control over roadworks carried out by utility companies.

An SGN spokesman said its team is working on Botley Road seven days a week, 12 hours a day, to get the job done.

Asked if there was any option to work during the night, when the road is quieter, a spokesman said: "Carrying out our work into the night would cause significant disruption to people living there.

"We’re mindful of [residents] and will try to minimise noisy activities where possible."