Were dummy 'training' bombs to blame for St Pancras terror alert?

IF you saw sticks of dynamite attached with wires to a mobile phone in St Pancras station, you'd be forgiven for ordering a full-scale evacuation

Nick Collins

IF you saw sticks of dynamite attached with wires to a mobile phone in St Pancras station, you'd be forgiven for ordering a full-scale evacuation.

So it was, earlier this month, when hundreds of people poured out onto the streets and bomb disposal teams were called in.

However, the chaos could have been avoided, it seems. For it was not an act of terrorism but apparently an emergency services blunder.

The two dynamite 'bombs', according to a 999 source at the scene, had been planted in the station a week previously but failed to be found during a training exercise. When the devices were eventually discovered on April 7, emergency services took the threat to be real.

"When emergencies occur we get a slip through on the printer saying roughly what the emergency is, and in this case it was a suspicious package," said a member of the response crews called to deal with the incident.

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"We were settling in for something protracted but suddenly that was it - everything was cancelled.

"The information sort of trickled down. We were told there were two packages discovered which were left over from a training exercise a few days before.

"We heard the packages had been there for a few days and they hadn't realised it and one of the security guards had set off the alarm and fled."

Fire engines, police cars and army bomb disposal teams were called in and the command structure - the measure of how serious an incident is - was set at silver, the second-highest level.

The station was evacuated for three hours after lunchtime while the response teams dealt with the 'bombs' found in a security area and near an international Eurostar platform. "I was surprised at the way things panned out but it is not unusual," he added.

"I guess in this case there is egg on the emergency services' faces," he added.

A spokesman for the London Fire Brigade said he was unable to comment on the nature of the incident, but confirmed crews were present and took no action in the end.

The British Transport Police said the incident could not be discussed, but a spokesman did say: "We take all security incidents extremely seriously. We always respond with the utmost urgency and passenger safety is always our foremost priority.

"As far as the specifics of why this evacuation was carried out, it is just not something we can comment on."

A spokesman for Eurostar said: "As far as we were concerned it was a genuine security alert."

The confusion over what exactly happened certainly perplexed those working at the station.

One shop worker said: "We just heard there was a package found. We were among the last to leave and we were told it was somewhere by the left luggage.

"They called the manager back in to search the shop for any packages. The story does not add up to me."

Another worker said: "When the station re-opened we did not get any information about what had happened and why, which I thought was a bit off.

"Police did not search our shop and suddenly that was it, everyone was just milling around.

"It was a bit strange, I thought the security would be a bit tighter."