West Sussex fire alert leads to train passenger delays

Overcrowding at East Croydon railway station
Image caption Rail firms have warned passengers to expect delays and cancellations

Rail passengers have been facing delays after a fire alarm led to the evacuation of a railway signal centre.

Emergency services cleared Three Bridges station in Crawley, West Sussex, after fire alarms were sounded on Friday morning.

Southern services between Brighton and Horsham via East Croydon and First Capital Connect trains between Brighton and East Croydon are disrupted.

First Great Western trains between Gatwick and Redhill are also delayed.

The train firms have warned passengers to expect delays and some cancellations until about 16:00 BST.

'Exemplary fashion'

In a statement, Southern said: "Train services across the Southern network are currently disrupted due to an earlier fire alarm activation in the Three Bridges signalling centre, resulting in the main signalling centre being evacuated. Delays of up to 45 minutes can be expected.

"Services will remain subject to short notice alteration, delay or cancellations this afternoon."

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow praised staff for the "exemplary fashion" in which they carried out the emergency procedures but said he thought plans to centralise signalling operations could lead to worse disruption in future.

He added: "RMT now awaits an inquiry into the full facts behind the incident and the evacuation and the union expects to play a full role in the investigation and the drawing up of any conclusions and recommendations.

"However, RMT believes that this morning's incident shines the spotlight on plans to centralise signalling operations into 14 regional centres, a move that clearly throws up real risks of putting all the eggs in one basket with the obvious problem of a whole region going down if a centre is taken out of action."

A spokesman for Network Rail said: "The investment we're making to upgrade Britain's railway signalling systems will mean that incidents like this morning's fire alarm at our Three Bridges control room will have significantly less impact on the travelling public in future.

"Currently, a number of different signalling systems are used across Britain's railway, meaning that if a problem occurs at a control room our options are extremely limited. Our new rail operating centres will all use a single system, meaning control of a section of railway can quickly and easily be transferred to another centre if needed."

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