TRADERS last night said the closure of Oxford’s Botley Road following a burst water main had hit business on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Thames Water issued an apology after the five-inch main in Botley Road burst at about 10pm on Saturday.

Despite engineers working through the night, the road – which was closed between Binsey Lane and Ferry Hinksey Road – did not reopen until 12.45pm yesterday.

Staff at Blackwell’s Bookshop in Broad Street said footfall appeared to be down.

Sunday manager Robert Goldsby-West said: “We have not had as many as we thought we would have – Saturday was very busy for us but we have certainly not seen as many people on Sunday as we would have expected.”

Annie Gowing, director of John Gowing jewellers in the Covered Market, said: “It’s potentially one of our busiest Sunday trading days of the year. We weren’t best pleased to hear it was closed.”

Toys R Us, which is in Botley Road, reported several members of staff were late getting to work due to the closure.

Store manager Darren Davies said: “We are still really busy, but we might have been even busier had it not been for the roadworks.

“If someone’s coming from this side of Oxford to the city centre and realises they can’t get in, they might come to us anyway so it might actually have made us busier that way.”

Frank Smith, store operations manager at Boswells in Cornmarket Street, said the closure had a personal impact on him as he used the Seacourt park and ride and had to divert via the A34 and Abingdon Road to get to work.

He said: “This morning it wasn’t signed anywhere.

“It’s one of those unfortunate circumstances where there is not very much we can do to it –but I don’t think it was very well signed.

“There was no information to anyone coming into Oxford.”

But he said the department store did not appear to have been affected, with trade 20 per cent up on expectations.

Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member Rodney Rose said he believed there was adequate signage in place.

He said: “We have signs up on our information boards, at the entrance to Botley from the A34, at Seacourt traffic lights and at Hythe Bridge Street.

“Our guys were out there all through the night and I think we did everything we could.”

During the work, bus services 4, U1 Brookes Bus and 400 Park and Ride were diverted.

Oxford Bus Company spokesman Phil Ashworth said: “It wasn’t as bad as it would have been had it continued into the afternoon, but the delays gradually got more prolonged as the traffic built up.

“We were managing to get all the services through, albeit with some delay.”

Engineers had to dig up the carriageway to fix the burst main before resurfacing the road.

Thames Water spokesman Stuart White said: “We apologise for the disruption the road closure would have caused Christmas shoppers, and we have done all we can to get it back open again as soon as possible.

“We worked all through the night to repair the five-inch burst water main and following discussions with the local highways authorities this morning we have managed to open both lanes of Botley Road more than three hours earlier than expected.”

No homes or properties were flooded.