Canterbury railway line suspect device 'hoax'

Canterbury closure (picture by Alex Gibson and Frederick Gower)
Image caption The bus station in Canterbury was evacuated (picture by Alex Gibson and Frederick Gower)

A suspect package on a Kent railway line that led to a major police alert was an elaborate hoax, officers said.

Army bomb disposal experts were called to what was believed to be an explosive device in Old Dover Road, Canterbury, on Friday.

Trains were halted and areas of the city centre evacuated while police investigated the incident and a fire they believed may have been linked.

But at midnight Kent police confirmed it was a false alarm.

The force said all the roads in Canterbury city centre had been reopened by 0800 BST on Saturday.

'Difficult' time

A section of the railway line was still closed and rail replacement buses were still in place, it added.

Emergency services were alerted to the scene at 16:21 BST. About 50 minutes later, Kent Fire and Rescue Service was called to Marks and Spencer, in St George's Street, where staff discovered a fire in the baby changing area on the second floor.

The fire was quickly put out and the store evacuated.

Later, police tweeted to say that its operation in the city centre was being scaled back significantly.

It said the bomb was "an elaborate hoax on the railway line - a package designed to look like a bomb. Was declared safe by the army".

It added that the "suspicious" Marks and Spencer fire was being investigated, along with some suspicious activity at Kent County Cricket Club's ground.

Thanking the public for its patience, Assistant Chief Constable Andy Adams said it had been a "difficult few hours" for the people of the city.

"We take pride in policing one of the safest counties in the country," he said.

"We take incidents like this extremely seriously, particularly when they disrupt our residents' lives. We will do everything we can to locate and arrest those responsible."

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