By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter
Fire safety experts found a catalogue of problems at one of Britain’s busiest transport hubs where there was no evidence that an evaluation of the risks had taken place.
London Fire Brigade sent a 10-page report of concerns and recommendations about Victoria Coach Station to Transport Trading Limited – a subsidiary of Transport for London (TfL).
The troubling issues uncovered included potentially confusing fire escape notices, “inadequate” emergency routes, items stored on a staircase and a sprinkler which was out of action for more than two years.
Fourteen million passengers go through the station, off Buckingham Palace Road, every year, and one fire safety expert who read the report said: “It looks like a walking disaster area”.
Transport bosses were told the breaches of the fire safety order had to be put right by March 23.
Independent fire safety expert Stephen MacKenzie said: “There are some quite concerning findings, Victoria coach station is by far the worst I’ve seen in a long time.
“Imagine that on a Friday or Saturday night or the festive holiday season, you have got a big disaster. You have got a major problem at that station.”
The notice has prompted MP for Cities of London and Westminster, Nickie Aiken, to contact the deputy mayor of London and the Transport Commissioner with her concerns.
She said: “I’m greatly concerned to learn that TfL has received an enforcement notice by the London Fire Service for Victoria Coach Station.
“Passenger and employee safety should be the top priority. I hope and expect that TfL will take this issue very seriously and comply.”
In their report the inspectors said fire exit signs at Victoria Coach Station were “of mixed standards” and spotted “contradictory” signs in the mobility lounge and “degraded” signs in the maintenance workshop and mezzanine floor.
They said people could “become confused and delayed attempting to understand contradictory or illegible emergency signage” during an emergency.
And the report said no live or mock emergency evacuation had taken place.
Firefighters could be put at risk searching for people who are not at assembly points during a real emergency, the inspectors warned.
They said employees had not been given “clear and relevant information” about fire alarms at the coach station and fire suppression systems – such as sprinklers – which could “lead to delays and impede firefighting”.
A TfL spokeswoman said the last full evacuation exercise was held on October 4 last year, with a “partial evacuation exercise on October 14”.
London Fire Brigade experts spotted that the fire suppression sprinklers in the East Terminal departures canopy had not worked since March 2017.
Experts also discovered that the staircase from the maintenance workshop was used for storage.
Lilli Matson, TfL’s chief safety health and environment officer, said: “Safety is our top priority, and we work closely with London Fire Brigade to ensure that our network is safe for customers and staff.
“We have already addressed many of the points raised in the enforcement notice, which had also been identified in our most recent fire risk assessment.
“We have appointed a contractor to reinstate the coach station’s sprinklers and have deployed 24/7 fire watchers while we complete this project.”
TfL declined to provide a copy of the most recent Fire Risk Assessment “on security grounds”.
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