WIGAN rail services were thrown into chaos after a major fire on the railway in a neighbouring town.
Highly flammable acetylene cylinders were at risk of exploding at a workshop close to Bolton railway station.
And so high was the perceived risk at first that the fire brigade created a large exclusion zone shutting off not only local roads but also main rail arteries.
This then had a knock-on effect on borough services, particularly those between Wigan Wallgate and Manchester Victoria which were withdrawn within minutes of the incident being reported at around 11am yesterday.
Rail chiefs initially feared that the network could be disrupted for more than 24 hours because overheating gas cylinders could take a very long time to cool down.
But after three hours the incident was re-assessed by fire chiefs and it was decided the risk had reduced sufficiently so that the exclusion zone too could be shrunk.
And so services resumed at around 2pm, but not before rail users had been inconvenienced.
One regular passenger on the Wallgate to Victoria line said: “After all the trouble we had with snow and winter weather in the last few weeks this was all we needed, but I suppose public safety had to come first in this instance.”
A spokesman for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said it received reports of a fire at Williams Body Shop on Great Lever’s Orlando Street at 10.57am on Thursday.
He added: “Crews from Bolton Central, Leigh and Hyde Fire Stations were mobilised, along with Atherton’s Operational Support Unit – where on their arrival found a fire involving an acetylene cylinder which was gassing off.
“As a result of the incident a cordon was put in place – resulting in closure of local roads and railway lines. The cordon has now been reduced so the railway lines and main roads have re-opened. As of 2pm two fire crews remained in attendance at the incident, and are likely to do so for several hours.”
Among local services affected were the Northern Rail trains from Wallgate to Manchester Victoria via Bolton which were withdrawn while the Wallgate to Rochdale service only ran between Rochdale and Victoria. The Southport to Manchester Airport service was diverted via Atherton and the TransPennine Express was diverted via Wigan North Western and Atherton.