COMMUTERS faced traffic chaos getting into Taunton this week... and delays are likely to continue.

Gas mains repair works on the Silk Mills roundabout near Staplegrove caused long tailbacks by the Cross Keys pub and on the A358 towards Bishops Lydeard.

Some motorists reported journey times of up to 90 minutes longer at peak times due to the temporary traffic lights in operation during Wales and West Utilities' works.

Independent county councillor Mike Rigby, who covers the Lydeard division, said the tailbacks seemed particularly bad out towards the 40 Commando base.

He said: “The traffic lights set up was not allowing traffic to flow from the Bishops Lydeard and Minehead direction as people were giving way to traffic on the right of the roundabout at Cross Keys, and therefore were not moving anywhere.

“We all accept that the work has to take place but traffic management is really important and it seems they have not paid enough attention to that.”

Other frustrated motorists claimed seeing a highways sign claiming work would be taking place from Monday to Sunday (February 17 to 23) this week.

However, diggers and traffic lights were reportedly spotted in operation on Saturday, two days earlier than expected, and caught people off guard.

One Staplegrove resident, who did not wish to be named, said: “It has been a nightmare so I've been walking where possible.

“The lights were there on Saturday when I thought work was not going to start until Monday. You'd think these people would communicate with each other.”

A spokesman for Wales and West Utilities said: “We planned that most of this vital work would take place during the half-term school holiday to minimise disruption to road traffic.

“We regret that the early start caused inconvenience to road users on Saturday and that road signage did not indicate the correct start date.

“We are looking into the circumstances of this and will be discussing it with the local authority. We aim to complete the work as swiftly as possible to minimise any inconvenience to road users.”

Somerset County Council has apologised for the confusion and added: "Gas mains replacement works by Wales and West Utilities were due to begin on Monday, timed for the half-term holiday when roads are quieter.

"However, the contractors started work early over the weekend and we are investigating why this happened.

"We have now arranged for a one-way system to be introduced and have delayed work until after 9.30am to miss the morning rush hour."