DRIVERS in Worcester are facing seven weeks of potential gridlock - with one of the city's busiest routes being dug up.

Three-way traffic lights went up near the top of Worcester's A38 Bath Road on Monday, causing spiralling tailbacks from Norton Close all the way to The Albion pub.

An emergency gas leak, which is currently being worked on by the National Grid, meant it took some motorists 30 minutes to travel the length of the road, with tailbacks in both directions during rush hour.

The project is expected to be complete by Friday, but from Monday the National Grid will return to Bath Road to start six weeks of gas mains replacement work, saying traffic lights will again be in use in both directions along the route.

The mammoth project comes just as the schools go back, with motorists now facing delays until mid-October.

Driver Peter Griffiths, 61, from Barneshall Avenue, said: "I was trying to get up the Bath Road from the pub and it took me 25 minutes of crawling.

"Why wait until the schools are back to do this? It will end up causing chaos.

"We've put up with a lot around here, up the road there's been roadworks at the Ketch (island at the A440) since Easter."

Councillor Mike Johnson, who represents St Peter's at the city council, said: "I've seen the National Grid digging holes in the grassed verges (by the Norton turn off Bath Road) so I'd assumed they'd had reports of a gas leak.

"I got stuck in it myself on Monday, at that time it was two-way traffic lights but I see now it's three."

The National Grid says the work is "essential" following recent investigations into the gas mains.

This Monday's six-week project was scheduled before the current emergency visit to plug a leak got underway.

Spokeswoman Jane Taylor said: "A gas escape was reported to us on Monday, it's been repaired now and we've just got to backfill the road before we can remove the traffic lights.

"On September 8th a gas mains replacement job will last for around six weeks on the Bath Road."

The National Grid originally applied to start the work on Monday, September 22 but now says it wants to bring it forward by two weeks.

People in south Worcester have already suffered due to other utility works in the area in 2014.

The first three months of this year saw lengthy delays around St Peter's because of a £180,000 water pipes replacement scheme by Severn Trent.