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London Bridge overcrowding: Safety review ordered after crowded commuters fear being crushed

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A major review of passenger safety and train services at London Bridge station was being carried out on Thursday following heavy overcrowding.

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Thousands of people were caught in chaotic scenes around 5.30pm on Wednesday, which Network Rail blamed for train delays caused by a trespasser further down the line at Here Green.

But passengers told the Standard that a “dangerous” situation quickly developed as people tried to take escalators onto the platform. Some said the “total lack of information” from station staff has raised concerns for people trying to get home.

Many passengers feel that the situation has worsened since the introduction of the new timetable on Southeastern trains last month. This forces thousands of commuters to change trains at London Bridge.

Steve White, managing director of Southeastern, told The Standard the review would be comprehensive and would consider whether future incidents could be dealt with more quickly and customer service improved.

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He added that Southeastern is looking to rapidly increase train capacity during evening rush hour by laying more services via London Bridge and/or longer trains.

Responding to concerns on Twitter, Mr White acknowledged it was the second time “crowd control” was needed at the station.

He said: “There was the last occasion when a point failure caused disruption. (Last night’s) disruption was due to an emergency call stopping all trains due to a trespasser. A review will be held (today).

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Mr White said the incident – which is not believed to be malicious and may have been an attempted suicide – resulted in the cancellation or reduction of 19 trains. The disruption lasted from 5:30 pm to 6.45 pm, he said.

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Leslie Walker, who was trying to catch a train to Here Green, got stuck in the crowd as she tried to get to platform seven.

“I was about four or five people back from the start of the escalator,” she told The Standard. “People were pushing and shoving from behind. It was a ‘rock concert feeling’ where you are being pushed. I could see that the people around me were starting to look a little nervous.

“I made a decision that I needed to get out of that situation. It was potentially dangerous in my mind. Staff on the ground need to communicate with passengers. People got upset and a little pissed off because They didn’t know what was happening.”

Susan Whitlock, a city worker trying to get to Clock House station in Beckenham, had arrived at London Bridge from Canon Street and was trying to get down the escalator to change to a different platform.

“It was just ridiculous,” she said. “I couldn’t believe people were getting on the escalator when they could see the amount of people on the platform.”

He said that the situation was so bad that he had to catch the train back to Charing Cross. “I think there was a trespasser down the line. It shows how a small incident leads to an incredibly dangerous situation.

Ms Whitlock said the new timetable has doubled the length of her commute. Instead of being able to catch a direct train from Cannon Street, she now had to “double back” on herself and travel across London Bridge to Charing Cross – meaning she would have to catch three trains to get home.

Danny Thorpe, a former Greenwich council leader, asked for Southeastern and the Department for Transport – which allowed the government-run train firm to change its timetable without consultation – to be presented before the Commons transport committee.

NHS nurse and Greenwich councilor Sammy Bacon tweeted to Mr White: “Being one of the passengers who was kettled on London Bridge, this is beyond unsafe. Please take action before something terrible happens.”

A Network Rail spokesman said: “There was a delay on London Bridge last night due to an intruder on the tracks at Here Green station. Normal operations resumed by 17.39.”

A Southeastern spokesman said: “An earlier trespasser on the line at Here Green last night caused line closures, cancellations and delays in and out of London, affecting services on London Bridge. Trespasser apprehended Power was restored to all lines by Network Rail and normal services resumed by 17:39. We apologize for any inconvenience caused to our customers by this incident.”

“A safety review will be held this morning (Thursday) with Network Rail”.

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