M11 closed after coach bomb alert

PUBLISHED: 10:51 12 January 2006 | UPDATED: 20:09 28 May 2010

PASSENGERS were evacuated from a coach in a bomb alert which led to the closure of a motorway. It happened on the M11 on Saturday afternoon after a National Express driver called police to say he had suspect baggage on board. He was ordered to stop on the

PASSENGERS were evacuated from a coach in a bomb alert which led to the closure of a motorway.It happened on the M11 on Saturday afternoon after a National Express driver called police to say he had suspect baggage on board.He was ordered to stop on the hard shoulder of the M11 just past the Saffron Walden exit, Junction 10, and the emergency services were put on full alert."The driver acted fast when he was made aware of the left luggage and was instructed to contact the local police by the National Express control centre," said a coach company spokeswoman.Police closed the southbound carriageway from Junction 10 to the Stansted Airport exit, Junction 8, in case there was an explosive device in the baggage.The National Express service 490 from Norwich to London was searched by the police while the 33 passengers stood around in the pouring rain for nearly half an hour until a replacement coach arrived to take them to Stansted Airport without their luggage.Police escorted the coach along the M11 to an isolated part of the Birchanger Services area at Junction 8 where it was given a detailed inspection and given the all-clear.The driver then collected his passengers from the airport terminal and continued on to London.According to National Express, the driver had become concerned when he thought two passengers who had had their luggage loaded at Norwich were not on the coach. He made an unscheduled stop at Newmarket, but could not see the pair.Back on the road he radioed his concerns to the company control centre, who advised him to call the police.When the police checked the coach on the hard shoulder of the M11 it was discovered that the two "missing" passengers were in fact on the coach."It may be that the driver did not make exactly the right decision, but he acted in what he believed were the best interests of his passengers," said the coach company spokeswoman.She said she suspected that the driver was exercising extra caution because of the significance of the date - six months to the day of the London bus and tube bombings."The safety and security of our customers is always the top priority for National Express and in the current security climate the driver worked closely with the emergency services at the scene to ensure the customers were taken to their onward destination while the left luggage was investigated," she said.She added that the company would be reissuing its guidelines to drivers and further discussing the incident with the driver concerned.The southbound carriageway of the M11 was closed for nearly three hours, and traffic was diverted along the A505 to Royston to join the A10.

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