A TOWN was gridlocked after a burst water main caused major traffic chaos.

Workmen had to dig up a main road to carry out emergency repairs, causing tailbacks stretching miles around from Rawtenstall to neighbouring towns.

The pipe, which was two metres under ground, had split causing the road surface to buckle. Thousands of motorists got caught up in the severe delays along Burnley Road, the A682 from the M66, Bocholt Way, Bury Road and Haslingden Road yesterday.

Staff from a nusery abanonded their vehicles in Crawshawbooth and walked into work in Rawtenstall.

A team of engineers from United Utilities worked throughout Monday night to repair the 12-inch pipe under the Queen's Square roundabout, Rawtenstall.

A spokesman warned severe delays could continue until this evening (wednesday).

He said: "It is a challenging job, with the pipe encased in concrete underground to protect it. The engineers have had to dig underground then break through the concrete to get to the main. The team made good progress and the pipe was repaired."

One lane of the road has been closed and the dug up road will need to be reparied and the surface reinstated.

United Utilities is carrying out major, long-term work on its sewers and there has already been a lane closure on this roundabout, as well as temporary traffic lights in the area.

It is unclear exactly what caused the pipe to burst, but an investigation is currently underway.

Neil Tuersley, United Utilities Service Delivery Manager, said: “This emergency work is causing long delays on the roads and we are genuinely sorry for the inconvenience this will cause people.

“For this to happen in such a traffic sensitive place while we are already creating disruption with the sewer scheme is extremely bad luck. We want to get the pipe and road repaired as soon as possible and get this lane reopened.”

The burst water main is unrelated to the £7million sewer project, which started earlier this year to help clean-up watercourses in the town, and there have been no water supply issues for customers during the leak.

The long delays caused misery for many motorists.

Mary Smith, 56, from Blackburn, said: “Me and my husband came through here this morning and we were stuck on Haslingden Road for what seemed like hours.

“It was such a pain because we had only come for a quick trip but it took forever to get home.

“Everyone around us seemed pretty fed up with it.”

Allan Connor, 40, from Clitheroe, said: “The traffic has been very bad all day but it was horrendous this morning.

“The water was just everywhere earlier but it has almost gone now.

“The traffic problems still remain however and I don’t see it going for a while yet.”

Staff from Educare For Early Years were even forced to walk children to the building from their parents’ cars.

Deputy manager Becky Barker said: “Our deputy manager Gemma Nuttall set off in the car, then got out of the car and walked the rest of the way from Crawshawbooth.

“We had staff who were on their way to nursery and saw some of the families and brought the children with them on foot.

“All the children made it in eventually but it was a slow process.”

Bus services across Rossendale were also disrupted and extra buses had to service routes.

A statement from Ross bus company said: "Where possible, we will put additional drivers and vehicles into place to alleviate the problem, but as this is at the busiest point on the Rawtenstall road network, the disruption is likely to be huge."