Major gas leak in Harborough started as minor repair

Scene of the gas leak on Great Bowden Road in Market Harborough.PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER NNL-161105-165502001

Scene of the gas leak on Great Bowden Road in Market Harborough.PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER NNL-161105-165502001

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National Grid are investigating after a minor gas main repair in Market Harborough escalated into a major incident last week.

The major gas leak began at about 2.30pm last Wednesday, May 11, on Great Bowden Road, Market Harborough, close to the railway line.

Scene of the gas leak on Station Road in Great Bowden.PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER NNL-161105-165536001

Scene of the gas leak on Station Road in Great Bowden.PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER NNL-161105-165536001

The emergency services put a cordon around the area, evacuated around 50 homes near the leak, and closed local roads and the main railway line between Leicester and Market Harborough.

At the time of the major leak, workmen had been carrying out minor repairs on the gas pipe, the Mail has been told.

A spokesperson for National Grid said this week: “Workers acting on behalf of National Grid were carrying out a repair on the pipe at the time of the incident. The circumstances of what happened are being fully investigated.”

The major leak was so powerful it was audible from 100 metres away - “like a gust of wind”, local residents said.

National Grid received “multiple calls” last Wednesday from people in the area reporting a smell of gas.

Dozens of homes along a 200 metre stretch of Station Road, in Great Bowden and Great Bowden Road, in Market Harborough, were evacuated.

Great Bowden Road was closed by the Fire Service, close to the junction with The Ridgeway, as was Station Road in Great Bowden village.

East Midlands trains stopped running trains between Market Harborough and Leicester for about two hours on Wednesday.

The railway line was reopened at 4.42pm and people were allowed back in their homes at around 6.30pm. No gas supplies were affected.

Engineers completed the repair to the pipe at midnight on Wednesday, May 11.

Final checks were carried out on the pipe on Monday, May 16, before the excavation was reinstated.

The spokesperson said the leak was from a medium pressure pipe located close to Great Bowden Road, which would mean “a lot of gas coming out quite quickly”.

She added that such a major leak was “very unusual”.

Local resident Katie Duff, of Great Bowden Road told the Mail: “Luckily I wasn’t within the 100metre zone, so I could get in and out of my house. The sound of escaping gas was very loud, like a gust of wind.”

Another resident, Mandy Welton added: “We were told the leak was close to the railway bridge between Market Harborough and Great Bowden.”

A spokesman for the Fire and Rescue Service said that a 24-inch gas main has failed.

It resulted in a 100-metre cordon being set up and an evacuation of surrounding properties within the “exclusion zone”.