MOTORISTS were left fuming for a second time today after a decision to close Worcester's main road bridge caused rush-hour traffic gridlock.

Commuters faced hours of delays last night as city centre streets ground to a halt.

Shops and businesses urged people to leave the city centre as soon as possible, but water levels did not reach the predicted heights and New Road stayed dry through the chaos.

One 35-year-old motorist caught in Deansway yesterday evening fumed: "It's absolute madness."

"They didn't close the bridge until it flooded last week. Why have they done it now when it's not even flooded. There wasn't event a puddle," said the 35-year-old, from Earl's Croome. "The police's excuse was to avoid rush-hour congestion and that's exactly what happened. They're morons."

This morning the bridge remained closed throughout the rush-hour and some motorists abandoned their cars and walked to work.

Senior city council officers have defended their decision to close the bridge at 3.30pm yesterday.

Worcester City Council's chief executive, David Wareing, said Environment Agency warnings justified the action.

By 6pm, when the river levels were lower than expected, it was too late to reverse the decision.

It was re-opened for traffic leaving the city at 9.30am today, but no one was able to confirm for how long.

"I expect drivers will face severe congestion again tonight," said Worcester's head of transportation John Day. "But we can't just open and close the bridge every half-hour."

One Worcester worker avoided the jams by walking from his Malvern home after the bus he was on became snarled up in traffic at Malvern Link.

"I thought I might as well walk to Worcester," said Richard Hughes, the deputy manager of the Acorns Children's Hospice shop in Mealcheapen Street. "It took from 7.45am to 9.25am and was very invigorating."

Worcester City Council has advised commuters to avoid using cars if possible, but motorists looking to beat the jams found many city bus services were disrupted and Central Trains were unable to lay on extra services because of flooding elsewhere.

Transco, which took the opportunity of New Road being closed to re-line a gas pipe on the bridge, described the situation as "advantageous".

Meanwhile, firefighters called to a car fire in Malvern Road last night had to move barriers on New Road to get through.