Train smoke blamed for leisure centre evacuations

Elaine MaslinCold morning starts for diesel trains on a Norfolk preservation railway line are thought to have had a rather chilling effect on visitors to a nearby leisure centre.Elaine Maslin

Cold morning starts for diesel trains on a Norfolk preservation railway line are thought to have had a rather chilling effect on visitors to a nearby leisure centre.

Visitors to Dereham Leisure Centre have had to be evacuated from the centre, some in their swimming costumes, twice in recent weeks after fire alarms at the building were set off.

They were given blankets to keep warm in the near cold temperatures outside and soon allowed back in the centre.

It is thought they were caused by smoke from diesel trains being started up at the nearby Mid Norfolk Railway preservation line.

But it has left staff at the railway puzzled as to why the problem has suddenly started.

James Steward, operations director, said the leisure centre and the railway had happily co-existed since it was built without any issues.

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He said: 'We have asked if they can check their alarms are working properly.

'Unfortunately it has been a really cold winter and the engines do make a bit of steam and smoke when they are first started up.

'If it was us, we will make sure on cold mornings we are sensitive to where engines get started up.

'We are keen to be good neighbours and we are working with them to make sure it is not us causing the problem.'

A spokesman for Breckland Council, which owns the leisure centre site, run by Parkwood Leisure, said: 'We can confirm that there have been two recent occasions when the Dereham Leisure Centre has been evacuated.

'On both occasions this was a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of the public and staff.

'It is thought that fumes or smoke from nearby trains are entering the air intakes of the leisure centre, triggering the response and this is currently being investigated.

'We apologise for any inconvenience that these measures may cause and wish to assure our customers that we are working with our partners and staff at the nearby railway to resolve the issue.'

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