Chaotic scenes broke out at Gatwick Airport today after train passengers were stranded for up to two hours when rail replacement services were hit by severe overcrowding.
Witnesses caught up in the mayhem told how children were "squashed" among "aggressive" crowds at the airport station waiting to board replacement buses with rail chiefs blasted over the alleged "shambolic" handling of the queues.
One woman claimed her mum was forced to intervene after fighting broke out among the throng in scenes she described as "dangerous" and "absolute chaos".
Trouble flared at the station as a result of no direct trains running today between London and Brighton, which passes through Gatwick on the Southern Rail route, because of scheduled engineering works.
It meant people were urged by rail bosses not to travel to Brighton and towards the south coast on one of the hottest days of the year so far.
In warm sunshine, crowds of people queued for up to two hours in 25C temperatures to board replacement buses with fears the disruption could last until tomorrow.
At least one woman and a man claimed to have missed their flights as a result of the mayhem but the airport said its operations were not affected.
Lois Bray tweeted: "Chaos @Gatwick_Airport due to @SouthernRail #railreplacement #engineeringworks. Crowds pushing through the queues, getting v aggressive & out of control. Avoid if you can."
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Samantha Evans posted: "It’s an absolute [email protected]_Airport. There are small children in the crowd & people with limited mobility but there’s no visible support or queuing system. Its chaotic & dangerous, why wasn’t the rail replacement service better planned?"
Claudia Pritchard added: "Managers should be ashamed @networkrail and @GatwickExpress. Appalling lack of organisation at Gatwick. Not enough rail replacement buses or staff. Chaotic scenes and police had to turn up. Embarrassing for all involved."
And Marina Lussich wrote: "Shambolic management of replacement buses in @Gatwick_Airport by @SouthernRilUK crowds pushing in the sun and children crying as they get squashed shame."
Southern Rail posted on their website: "There are currently large queues for the replacement bus services at Gatwick Airport and overcrowding at the station.
"As a result, customers should anticipate extended journey times and cancellations between London Victoria and Gatwick Airport to prevent further overcrowding.
"Services from Brighton towards London Victoria after 5pm are expected to be extremely busy and journey times to be extended as a result."
National Rail tweeted: "GatwickAirport – The queue time at Gatwick Airport to board a bus is currently 2 hours and it is strongly advised to not travel towards Brighton today."
A Gatwick Airport spokeswoman told Mirror Online it was a "train issue" and that airport operations had not been affected.
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