MONTHS of frustration could soon end for commuters, shoppers and businesses frustrated with Taunton’s horrendous traffic jams.

Wessex Water has told long-suffering traders it is working extra hours on its scheme to renew ageing water mains around the town and should finish ahead of schedule.

Gemma O’Neill, of the Sassetta Cafe in Paul Street, said it has been “increasingly quiet” with just nine customers one day.

She said: “If the next six weeks continue like the last two we simply won’t survive.”

She said trade picked up after an advert was placed in the County Gazette, but dropped off again during the roadworks.

Ms O’Neill said: “Even if we survived until after the works at the top of our road are finished we fear it’s going to take an awfully long time for people to gain confidence in parking in the multi-storey car park and M&S.”

An Australian tourist reserved some items with James Hembrow, of Craftasmic in High Street, before flying over, but failed to make it into town because of the traffic.

“She travelled thousands of miles with no hassle until she got to Taunton, when she had to change her plans,” said Mr Hembrow, who now expects to expand on-line.

In St James Street, Robert Lodge, of Showerings, has seen trade drop.

He said: “It’s discouraging people from coming into town – it took me 1¼ hours to drive from Parkfield Road to the tax office one day.”

Steve Hough, next door at The Shoe Doctor, said footfall in the street has decreased.

He said: “Trade is the quietest in five years – people don’t want to come into town.”

A Wessex Water spokesman said contractors are working later and at weekends to finish the current work in about a week’s time.

Project manager Phil Luxton said: “We recognise that our essential water supply work, as well as roadworks being carried out by other organisations, is causing inconvenience in Taunton and apologise to those affected.

“Throughout our scheme we’ve liaised with various businesses and we held a specific drop-in session before starting our work on the A38 for local traders who may be affected so they could raise any issues.

“We’d encourage local people to continue to support local traders whose businesses remain accessible.

“We continue to carry out work as quickly as possible and we’re hopeful that the renewing of mains to improve water quality will be completed sooner than planned.”