Dangerous gas fire - A12 shut

Road and rail travellers are facing severe disruption today after a fire service van carrying dangerous gas caught ablaze and closed the A12.A 200 metre exclusion zone has affected rail services, with a replacement bus service running between Colchester and Witham.

ARMY personnel and robotic vehicles have been brought in to deal with an accident which has brought chaos to rush hour traffic on the A12.

The severe disruption to traffic and rail services is ongoing after a fire service van carrying dangerous gas caught ablaze at around 8.30am and closed the road in both directions.

Rail services have also been affected, with a replacement bus service running between Colchester and Witham.

A 200metre exclusion zone has been set up around the van because the van has tanks of oxyacetylene on board which is commonly used to cut and weld metals.

At 3pm an army robotic vehicle was brought in to attempt to open the rear doors of the van and allow emergency services to gain sight of the gas canisters.

Divisional Officer Justin Johnston of Essex fire and rescue said: “We now have sight of the cylinder using the army's robotic vehicle and are working together with all of the agencies to take a decision on the best way forward.”

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A lengthy delay is expected due to the high temperature of the gas tanks, which need to cool before they can be removed from the van.

Firefighters have spent the day cooling the cylinders with hose jets. Normal operational procedure is that cylinders are cooled for 24 hours but under certain circumstances this time limit may be reduced.

Senior officers are currently investigating all options to get the A12 open again as quickly as possible.

Essex police have closed the road at Eight Ash Green, near Colchester, between junctions 25 and 26.

A spokesman for the force said: “The current closure is on the advice of Essex county fire and rescue and industry experts.

“There is currently a meeting going on on-site with a number of specialists and the various agencies involved, who are looking at every possible option to get the road and railway opened as quickly as possible.

“We fully appreciate the inconvenience that this is causing but public safety has to be our first priority.

“The area is already congested and with rush hour approaching it is likely to get worse.”

Police were first called at 8.32am this morning following reports of a vehicle on fire.

Motorists are being diverted through Stanway and Lexden via the B1408. The incident hit rush hour travellers, particularly commuters travelling between Ipswich and Colchester.

A spokeswoman for railway operators One said: “A replacement bus service is running between Colchester and Witham but apart from that services are running well.

“However customers travelling to London from Ipswich or Norwich are reminded their tickets are valid on the Cambridge line as well and they may wish to consider taking this route instead.”

No one was injured in the incident and the Essex Ambulance Service was not called.

N A female was taken to hospital after a road accident at 7.30am at Station Street, Ipswich.

Two people had minor injuries, one of them was taken to Ipswich Hospital.

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