Travel chaos as IRA keeps up campaign

Terrorist disruption: Rail links, motorway and airport forced to shut down, but travellers remain stoic
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The Independent Online
The IRA campaign of chaos yesterday closed rail links and motorway sections and shut a London airport. An attempt was also made to blow up an electricity pylon. The incidents came after disruption to travel in the Midlands and North of England last Friday and Monday's day of disruption in London and the south-east of England.

First to fall yesterday to the IRA's plan was Birmingham's New Street station, which was evacuated at 7.45am. The closure affected CrossCountry, West Coast main line and North London Railways services. The station reopened just before noon.

By 8am police had closed large sections of the M6 and M5 link in the West Midlands and motorists were moved off the A38(M) Aston Expressway, the main route into Birmingham. It is believed that coded warnings had been received by the police.

An AA spokesman said: "This is causing confusion and congestion around the motorway closures and in Birmingham. This has hit one of the busiest stretches of the M6, with constant rush-hour queues."

At 8.30am motoring organisations reported that the M1 was closed in both directions between junctions 33 and 31 in South Yorkshire and junctions 26 and 24 in Nottinghamshire.

Two explosions rocked a motorway stretch just before 8.30am. The blasts were close to junction 10A on the M6 north of Birmingham. No one was hurt in the explosions, but a 132,000-volt electricity pylon 400m from junction 10A was damaged. Police said the explosion was on a section of the M6 which had not been closed and believe the terrorists were attempting to topple the pylon on to the motorway.

Two concrete blocks which surround the base of the two legs nearest the motorway had been blown off by the blasts.

Tim Yardley, on his way to work, was half a mile from junction 10 going southbound when the bomb went off. "We heard a bang, which we thought was a good distance away, and within three minutes there was another one, which was literally 100 yards from the car."

Luton airport, Bedfordshire,was evacuated after police received a phone warning at 8.47am which claimed a bomb had been planted. The airport opened about 3pm, after bomb squad detectives had dealt with a suspect package.

The road alerts led to big rush-hour delays.

There were reports of a 15-mile queue on the M6 and a six-mile jam on the M1 in South Yorkshire.

Lorry driver Alan Makin, who was delivering toilet tissue from Merseyside to the West Midlands, typified the stoical spirit of many of those caught up in yesterday's traffic chaos.

Taking a break in Cannock, Staffordshire he said: "It's two o'clock now and normally by this time I'm back in Merseyside and doing another job.

"I reckon I've lost around half a day with the traffic delays around here."

Mr Makin, who lives in St Helens, described those who caused the chaos as "stupid", adding: "To be honest, the only person who's going to be upset is my boss."

Roofer David Doyle was travelling home from London to his native Ayrshire, in Scotland, when he was caught up in the delays on the M1 and M6.

He said: "It's taken me five hours to get here and normally I'd nearly be home by now.

"It's very frustrating but I suppose there's not much I can do about it. I heard about it on the radio but by then it was too late. I guess if I'd known before I'd have just stayed where I was, in the house."

Bomb-disposal experts also carried out a second controlled explosion at 2.30pm at junction 8 of the M6, the link with the M5 motorway.