COMMUTERS late for work, patients missing appointments, restaurant diners and hotel guests cancelling, learner drivers stuck in jams - welcome to gridlock Taunton.

The county town has suffered traffic problems for years, but patience is running thin for long-suffering motorists and people travelling on public transport caught up in the congestion on our roads.

We’re told it’s caused by work on a new road, streets being dug up to replace rusting water mains and traffic lights changing too quickly – but we’re promised it’s only temporary and things will improve.

Work on the £22million Northern Inner Distributor Road linking Staplegrove Road at Chip Lane and Priory Avenue via Firepool should end early next year.

And Wessex Water’s scheme renewing mains between Upper High Street and Mary Street – which has stopped traffic turning right into The Crescent – will take another six weeks.

Craig Moore, of Green4Go driving school, said staff are selective where they take learners.

“There are areas of Taunton we can’t touch,” said Mr Moore, who has seen drivers beating tailbacks with illegal manoeuvres.

“Traffic’s backed up on the Third Way because the traffic light sequence doesn’t work by Pizza Express; the work on the new roundabout at Wickes seems to flow fairly well; but a one-way system in Priory Avenue next week will cause problems.

“Students are paying £20 to be stuck in jams – one lesson on Tuesday, we didn’t move for 25 minutes.

“I don’t know how anybody could have planned everything at once. It’s frustrating and someone should look at it coming into the summer.”

Guy Patey, St James Medical Centre practice manager, said patients stuck in traffic should call the surgery to put back their appointments.

He added: “At periods of greatest demand, this may not be possible, resulting in the need to re-book.

“Doctors and staff also experience inconvenience resulting from traffic delays, most notably when undertaking home visits for patients.

“We’ll be relieved when the current round of improvements is complete.”

Some procedures at Musgrove Park Hospital were delayed last week due to patients arriving late.

Kit Chapman, of The Castle hotel and Brazz, said: “It took me 45 minutes on Tuesday afternoon to get out of Taunton.

“People arrive late. It affects business as people don’t want to go anywhere near the town centre.

“We’ve had cancellations from diners and guests.”

Berrys Coaches are struggling to keep buses on time - Caroline Ling said: “It’s been hard, but it’s something we have to live with at the moment. There’s not much we can do about it.”

Mark Tutton, of The Scrumper deli and canteen, said: “It’s putting at least another 20 minutes on our lunchtime delivery round. Everything’s pretty hectic.”

Linda Howarth, of Pain et Vin sandwich bar, said: “The traffic at the moment is absolutely appalling.

“It took me 15 minutes in the car to deliver sandwiches just behind Castle School - it usually takes that time to get to Wellington.”

Taunton Deane MP Jeremy Browne said some of the problems are down to Taunton’s layout and the completion of the NIDR should help.

But he added: “The roadworks are taking too long and the phasing of some traffic lights is making the congestion worse.

“I’ve contacted the county council about Taunton’s congestion - they need to have a proper plan to improve the traffic flow because it’s causing real problems for residents and businesses in Taunton.

“I support the NIDR, but the roadworks around the Shell garage (Priory Bridge Road) have been going on for months. It must be possible to complete these projects without causing such severe disruption.”

A Somerset County Council spokesman said NIDR work is “going well” and once complete will help relieve town centre traffic – “something we’re sure will be welcomed by residents and drivers,” he said.

“Most of the current congestion in the town centre is as a result of the major works being carried out by Wessex Water.”

Phil Luxton, Wessex Water’s project manager for the £16million Clean and Clear operation to upgrade ageing mains, said: "We understand work is taking place within a busy section of the town and ask that people are patient while we complete the work as quickly as possible.”