WEEKS of misery for motorists in Oxford is set to continue as work continues to repair a damaged water pipe on one of the city's busiest roads.

Rush hour traffic has been at a standstill on Botley Road since May 17 when work began to repair a pipe which had been hit by a boat. And Thames Water, which is carrying out the work, has no idea how long it will continue.

Temporary traffic lights near Osney Bridge have led to tailbacks the length of Botley Road, and through the city centre as far as Beaumont Street.

Drivers have complained at the lack of progress with many observing little or no work been carried out by contractors for large parts of the day.

Thames Water has apologised for the delays and says that if the pipe is not fixed, 22,000 properties in Oxford could have their water supplies put at risk.

One lane of the bridge and the cycle path is currently closed so engineers can work safely and to make space for a temporary pipe that will supply water to the city while Thames Water fixes the broken one.

The company insists it is working seven days a week but not overnight as it is a built-up area with residential properties and says the noise would cause too much of a disturbance for them.

A Thames Water spokesman said: “The pipe that was damaged by the boat is a vital part of the network which supplies water to Oxford City Centre, so this is a really complex job.

“We are setting up a temporary overground pipe that will feed water to the city while we work on the broken one and this needs careful planning to make sure customers do not experience a drop in water pressure, so we’re having to do lots of trials and tests to get this right.

“Sometimes we have to wait for the results of those tests to come back or are working in other roads to test the pressure and take samples, and this is why it may look like not much is happening on the bridge.

“We appreciate this can be frustrating for anyone stuck in traffic but the risk of not planning and testing is huge, and our top priority is making sure we can still get water to our customers in the city. Nobody wants their water supply to be off at any time let alone during a hot summer and a global pandemic.”

The company said it would have a clearer idea of when the road can reopen at the end of this week.

Oxfordshire County Council, as the highways authority, is responsible for giving the utility company permission to close the road.

A spokesman said: "We are working closely with Thames Water to ensure that the works are completed as swiftly as possible. Oxfordshire County Council will, in combination with Thames Water, continue to monitor traffic flows and adjust the lights to alleviate traffic queues as far as possible."

The council said it has 'no definitive timescale' for completion, but hopes the temporary traffic lights will be removed in two to three weeks. However, the council said these lights will need to return once a permanent solution to the broken pipe has been agreed.

The council has said it is doing what it can to reduce the impact of tailbacks and is using cameras to monitor the traffic.

The spokesman added: "Some operatives on site have been verbally abused by members of the public, which is completely unacceptable. Managing the traffic relies on compliance by road users. There have been a number of examples of road users jumping the lights in order to avoid further delay."

There has been repeated repair work over the years to repair underground pipes near the junction with Ferry Hinksey Road.

Gas pipe repair by SGN caused hold-ups for drivers in December when it carried out work on the road.