CITY motorists are facing yet more traffic chaos with major gas main replacements expected to run over schedule.
Utility company National Grid started replacing all the gas mains along the A51 in Boughton and those in Tarvin Road and Christleton Road in April.
Work was supposed to be finished by the end of this month but bad weather and “unexpected difficulties” mean the disruption will continue into October.
National Grid hopes the majority of work will be completed by October 10 and has increased the number of engineers for the second time in six weeks.
Lane closures and multi-way traffic signals on one of the busiest routes into the city have seen drivers facing lengthy delays and rush hour snarl-ups.
Construction engineer Vicky Lloyd said when work to install the new plastic gas main was complete no further works would be needed for another 70 years.
She said: “We’re putting five teams on the job in order to help get the work done as quickly as possible.
“We have encountered some unexpected difficulties such as the construction of the carriageway which is not typical and is more time-consuming to reinstate, and we’ve had to call in an archaeologist from time to time as we’ve worked around a graveyard in Christleton and they need to be informed every time we’re going to dig down.
“We’ve also used a ground radar company to come in and do a full tracing for us as the old utility plans are not showing everything that is down there.
“The problem is no-one has dug down for many years and we came across a 10m wide by 10m deep BT chamber that even BT wasn’t aware was there.
“We’re hoping to have the majority of the work completed by October 10 and then we can start on the side roads, so we will be working in that area until March next year.
“We’re using single lane closures rather than closing the entire road to make sure we can keep traffic moving.”
In July National Grid announced work was taking longer than expected due to the historic infrastructure along the route and unseasonable weather conditions.
The company apologised to motorists and residents and said extra engineers had been brought in with work being carried out seven days a week.
National Grid spokesman Craig Horrocks said: “We would ask motorists to continue to be patient with us. Our engineers are working hard to replace these pipes as quickly as possible.”
Outdated metal gas mains across the city are being replaced with new plastic pipes as part of National Grid’s £3.6 million renewal scheme.
The company said it was liaising with Cheshire West and Chester Council and Cheshire Police to ensure major events, including Chester Races and the forthcoming Chester Marathon, are not affected by the work.
See full story in the Chester Leader