CIVIC chiefs did not put Southampton’s emergency traffic plan into action when the city’s roads ground to a halt on Friday, the Daily Echo can reveal.

Motorists were stuck in three hours of gridlock, forcing some cruise passengers to abandon their cars and taxis and pensioners to urinate in the street.

The standstill that saw three-mile tailbacks centred on West Quay Road was described as an “embarrassment” to the city.

But despite the chaos, city council chiefs have confirmed that although an emergency traffic plan exists, it was not put into action on Friday.

Instead the city council put out a statement in the name of transport supremo Cllr Jacqui Rayment saying: “We are aware that drivers have been experiencing delays in the city centre and we regret any inconvenience caused.”

Last night Cllr Rayment, said: “There is an emergency traffic plan in place.

“It was not used on Friday as this is designed to provide procedures for dealing with ‘emergency situations’ such as major accidents or a significant gas leak on the network.

“The traffic build-up across the network on Friday could not be resolved by the emergency traffic plan.”

Friday’s gridlock was the third time in as many months that the city centre had been brought to a standstill by traffic jams.

Major roadworks are taking place at both Platform Road and the Itchen Bridge.

And with thousands of people driving in and out of the city to make their way to the five cruise ships docked in the port, traffic ground to a halt throughout the city.

Tailbacks were reported as far away as the M271.

Yesterday the Daily Echo revealed that transport chiefs would be holding crisis talks to make sure the traffic chaos was not repeated.

Labour council bosses, highways contractor Balfour Beatty and port chiefs were due to meet today after council leader Simon Letts vowed to take action.