WORK to finish essential gas works in the city centre are unlikely to be finished until December and possibly as late as a few days before Christmas.

Wales and West Utilities initially said that gas works in High Street and Commercial Street were aimed to be finished in September, then revised that to later in the autumn.

Now the firm anticipates it will finish the work in the last month of the year, and a Newport council streetworks report suggests they could run until December 21.

Worries from traders, many of whom had benefited from temporarily-withdrawn buses on High Street, have led the leader of Newport council to call for the works to be finished as quickly as possible.

Ken Ellis, president of the Newport Chamber of Trade, said the works would have a "massive effect" on Christmas trading with no buses returning to High Street and with the area in a "mess".

"We have emphasised to the company having it completed before Christmas means having it completed six weeks before," he said.

Tony Turner, butcher in Newport Market, said: "When you see two to three men on the job we wonder what is going on. We're asking them to get more men on the job."

Jon Powell, of the Kiosk on High Street, said for weeks there had been only three people on the job.

"There isn't much money left. I was prepared for all this, I saved money. But we were expecting it to be done before Christmas," he said.

Jane Lalies of X-Clusive Jewellery in Newport Market, said: "It's unsightly at this end of town. It's putting people off coming here. It isn't helping trade in the slightest".

A Wales and West Utilities spokesman said the delay was due to unforeseen difficulties encountered during excavation of the old gas main.

A spokesman for the utility firm said it regretted the delay, which he said was necessary for safety reasons.

He said the firm was aware of the inconvenience caused and assured people that its doing all it can to complete the work as quickly as possible.

"The scale and complexity of the project means that our team may need to work in different locations as the scheme progresses," he added.

THE leader of Newport council has called for Wales and West Utilities to get the work done as quickly as possible.

Councillor Bob Bright said he has called for an urgent meeting with Wales and West to drive forward the scheme and explore options to plough more resources into the project.

Newport Chamber of Trade's Ken Ellis has also been invited to meet officials from Wales and West.

"My officers and I will also be receiving regular updates to ensure all deadlines are being adhered to and that further improvement works can happen as planned and on-time," said Mr Bright.

Wales and West said it had been due to meet the council but the meeting was postponed and is hoped to be rearranged.