A UTILITY firm has apologised for having to carry out seven weeks of roadworks on a major Worcester route – insisting the project is “essential”.

The National Grid has responded to criticism over its A38 Bath Road project by saying it is “very sorry” for the inconvenience it will cause.

Readers of our website yesterday criticised the timing of the work, saying it would have better during the school holidays.

As your Worcester News revealed yesterday, a gas mains replacement project is starting on Monday for six weeks, meaning temporary two-way traffic lights will be in use down the road.

It follows three-way traffic lights which have been there since Monday, in a five-day emergency project to plug a gas leak by the Norton turn.

It emerged yesterday that from Monday, the temporary lights will be placed between the junctions with Bolston Road and Mill Street.

Stephen Murray, head of contracts for the National Grid, said: “We’re very sorry for the inconvenience that this work will create.

“And we are of course doing all we can to keep this to a minimum.

"We’d like to thank the people of Worcester for their understanding and patience, and also to reassure them that the work will deliver worthwhile benefits.

"These will include far fewer roadworks in future, as the new plastic main gas pipes we’re installing are much more reliable than the old cast-iron pipes that have been in use until now.”

The National Grid also said it has tried to bring the work forward to an early a date as possible, having originally scheduled it for Monday, September 22, but could not do it any sooner than next week for logistical reasons.

The temporary traffic lights up this week has caused delays as long as 30 minutes during rush hour periods, with the worst day being Monday.

Readers of our website say they fear it will “cause chaos” over the coming weeks.

WJS1950 wrote: “The A38 is a major route in and out of Worcester and yet it seems National Grid have been given permission by the highways department to start work next week and cause chaos.”

A fellow poster called Sproutacus wrote: “If the major construction at the Ketch (A4440 island) can employ coning, narrowing roads and contra-flow that only ‘slows’ and not stops the traffic, why can’t the grid.”