DARLINGTON - "a town on the move" - was at a standstill again this week as more roadworks brought traffic to a halt.

Questions are now being asked about the competence of the borough council's traffic management chiefs.

The town is one of only three in the country identified as "A Town on the Move" by the Government. It is receiving millions of pounds, partly to persuade people to look at alternative forms of transport to the car.

Bus companies and taxi firms all criticised the timing of the upgrade of traffic lights at the junction of Whessoe Road and North Road.

The work began during Monday morning's rush hour when thousands of commuters were travelling down North Road to work.

One bus took 90 minutes to make the normal ten-minute journey from the White Horse Hotel to the town centre, and others took an hour.

Fed-up commuters at bus stops gave up and walked, while some taxis did not charge passengers because of the lengthy waits.

Frank Cook, operations manager for Stagecoach, said: "It's been terrible. It is very unusual for it to be that bad but the work should be done at a more convenient time."

Bus drivers had complained that roadworks in the town generally seemed to be "everywhere at once" - commuters have suffered weeks of delays through roadworks on the inner ring road.

"It is quite poor traffic management in general," said Mr Cook. "It could be better and we will be contacting the council about the bad timing with it continuing in peak hours as well."

Arriva, the other main bus company in town, confirmed one of its buses had taken 90 minutes to travel down North Road.

Taxi companies were also badly affected.

On Monday, Stella Ellicker, office manager for Ace Cars, said they had been running behind all morning, with the school run particularly disrupted.

Andy Watson, manager of Station Taxis, said: "We've been having horrendous problems.

"I live in Harrowgate Hill and it took me 30 minutes to get into town, and that was coming through the back streets. It was gridlocked. I've never known traffic like it in that area.

"If you look at the ring road, that's horrendous as well. It's bad enough trying to get into town and then you get it all again.

"Maybe its a ploy by the council to get everybody to walk to work as part of Town on the Move."

But a council spokesman claimed the work could not be done at a different time and said it had tried to alleviate the problem.

"As well as having temporary traffic lights working automatically, we have been operating manual controls at peak hours, where there is someone monitoring the situation trying to keep traffic moving," she said.

Conditions were not much better on Tuesday, but the main work was expected to finish on Wednesday, with it completed by today