Travel chaos after gas leak shuts Charing Cross station


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Charing Cross Station is closed and the Strand shut off due to high levels of natural gas coming from a ruptured main

Disruption is continuing after a gas leak closed parts of London’s West End.

Rail firm Southeastern said Charing Cross and Waterloo East stations have now reopened after being shut all morning.

About 1,450 people were evacuated from a nightclub and hotel after the leak was discovered on Craven Street, just off the Strand, just after 02:00 GMT.

A ruptured gas main was responsible, London Fire Brigade said. Gas company Cadent said it has repaired the leak.

Network Rail said rail disruption was likely to continue until 15:00.

‘Zombie apocalypse’

Police are advising drivers and members of the public to avoid the area.

Passengers were complaining other rail stations are much busier than usual, with one describing London Bridge on Twitter as being like “a zombie apocalypse”.

Southeastern said “crowd control” measures were in place at the station.

Charing Cross station saw an estimated 81,000 passengers pass through it every day in 2016/17 according to Office of Road and Rail figures.

People who made it into the PwC offices on Craven Street have since been evacuated and a police officer said the gas level was still “extremely high”.

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Commuters face significant disruption

Richard Okyere, 60, works as security officer on the Strand. He told the BBC he was in the building when he was alerted to a smell.

“My colleagues led me to the back of the building. The whole area smelled of gas, and we called the site engineers who came to investigate.”

Nearby residents and guests from the hotel were evacuated and sent to a respite centre at Royal Horseguards Hotel in Whitehall Court.

From the scene: Charlotte Franks, BBC London

Guests at the Amba Hotel, in the Strand, woke up at 3:30 to an alarm.

Some feared it was a terror attack, others looked out of the window to see a police cordon wrapped around the road. Another smelled gas as soon as he woke.

Among the guests were a group of colleagues in London for a conference and a senior figure from Blackberry.

The hotel was quickly evacuated – so quickly that one woman did not have time to reach for her contact lenses.

Guests said it was well-organised, without panic and they followed like sheep to a nearby hotel in Whitehall Court – the Royal Horseguards Hotel.

Staff there served tea, coffee and breakfast and found them space in conference rooms and corridors to rest and sleep.

Early on there was joking and laughing but as the morning has worn on the 50-or-so tired guests are getting increasingly desperate to get back to their own hotel for a bath and some sleep.

Thani Spacey, a personal assistant at an office in the Strand, had just completed a 90-minute commute from Leigh-on-Sea in Essex to get to work early.

“I’m frustrated to say the least,” she said. “I’ve just had a text from work but why didn’t we hear earlier?”

Valerie Brun, from Chiswick, usually starts work at 7am at a software company on the Strand.

“Surprise, surprise – my building is locked up,” she said.

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Media captionFire brigade give update on gas leak

Revellers at the Heaven nightclub described trying to leave “as fast as possible” after they were told to evacuate the building.

One said: “Lots of people trying to leave at the same time. As soon as the word evacuation was heard from security staff everyone was trying to get out as fast as possible.”

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Image caption

Charing Cross Station is closed and the Strand shut off due to high levels of natural gas coming off a ruptured main

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