VILLAGERS are in limbo once again as underground engineers tunnel through fat-filled, saggy sewer pipes.

Residents in Radley have endured the partial closure of Church Road for a month while Thames Water replaces sunken pipes laden with so-called 'fatbergs'.

They face at least another four weeks before it reopens.

Two years ago the water provider replaced different pipes running through the street, forcing it to shut for six months.

Bob Earl, chairman of neighbouring Radley Village Shop, said: "It impacts completely on the village. The shop is losing passing trade. We are grateful to the regular customers but concerned that some are not able to get to us.

"It's very much an inconvenience. Last time we saw a drop in takings, which is inevitable."

Shop volunteer John Huddleston, who lives in St James Road, said: "There's an element of uncertainty about how long it will go on for."

The City 35 bus to Oxford and Abingdon was forced to reroute through residential St James Road, which regular bus user Margaret Webb is struggling with.

The 71-year-old, who lives next to the road works in Catherine Close, said: "It's a long way to walk. It's a good bus service and I rely on it."

Neighbours have to put up with a pungent stench and the constant buzz of temporary pipes, with one couple having to give up their garden for excavation works.

Jason Major, field operations specialist at Thames Water, said: "It causes a massive disruption to the village.

"Fat was definitely one of the contributing factors. We wouldn't expect that to be a problem in a village unless there were a lot of pubs or restaurants.

"People who are pouring grease down the sink could be the problem. They should be putting it in a container in the bin. You are never going to stop it going down the sewer but it needs to be reduced as much as we can.

"It's built up where it sags, and sits there and congeals. It's about as hard as stone."

His workers hacked away at a timber blockage they found in the pipe from an old manhole, as they tackle a slumped section of manhole that was limiting sewage flow.

He said: "It's like The Great Escape down there – they are tunnelling down about seven metres.

"The ground in this area is awful, it makes for really bad conditions."

He estimated the works to take another month.

He said the next on his poorly pipe "hit list" was in Lower Radley, where a sunken channel sparked the need for work to a 95-metre stretch of road.

An exact date has not yet been set for the project.