UPDATED: Police say stopping of Lancashire bus on M6 is not being treated as a counter-terror operation (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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UPDATED: Police say stopping of Lancashire bus on M6 is not being treated as a counter-terror operation
12:08pm Thursday 5th July 2012 in News
STAFFORDSHIRE Police says there is was no danger to passengers on the bus stopped on the M6 this morning.
Almost 50 people were evacuated from a coach after armed police closed the motorway.
The M6 toll road at Weeford near Lichfield was closed in both directions after allegations were made against one of the 48 passengers on board the Megabus coach from Preston to London, the coach firm said.
A statement relased by Staffordshire police this afternoon said: "At around 8.20am today we received a report from a genuinely concerned member of the public about suspicious activity on a coach travelling on the M6 toll at Weeford, near Lichfield.
"Following an initial assessment, we can confirm that no-one has been injured and that there is no danger to passengers at the scene or any other travellers who were on the motorway at that time. We are also not treating anyone as a suspect.
"Whilst the incident is ongoing and further examination and investigation is taking place at the scene, passengers have been put on another bus for their comfort and safety.
"Importantly, we are not treating this as a counter terrorism incident."
A spokeswoman for Megabus said: “We are assisting police with their enquiries after an allegation made against a passenger who was travelling on the 05.10 Preston to London service which was due to arrive at Victoria Coach Station at 10.55am. There were 48 people booked to travel on the service.
"The service is stopped at the M6 toll plaza. Police have confirmed that all passengers are safe and well and they have been transferred to a substitute vehicle. We are making arrangements to provide onward travel for passengers as soon as we receive clearance from the police."
The spokeswoman was unable to confirm how many of the passengers were from the East Lancashire area.
Reports suggested a man was seen pouring liquid into a smoking bag on board the coach. Armed police officers could be seen positioned next to the single-decker coach on the south-bound carriageway, as passengers were led off the vehicle one by one.
A number of emergency service vehicles were parked at the toll plaza, about 200 metres from the coach. Seven police vans arrived at the scene shortly before 11am.
It is understood the coach, which was heading south on the M6 toll road when it stopped, pulled over on to the hard shoulder of the motorway of its own volition.
The road has been closed in both directions between junctions three and four, the Highways Agency said. The incident is not thought to be linked to the arrests of six people in London as part of a pre-planned counter terrorism operation.
Several people, including at least one young boy, were seen sitting on the motorway in a cordoned-off square, several hundred metres from where the coach stopped.
Police surrounded the cordoned-off area, which spread across one lane of the toll road. Police dogs and their handlers were also seen walking nearby. Several other cordoned off areas could also be seen, along with what appeared to be bright yellow tents on the other side of the toll plaza.
Witness Nick Jones, who was stopped on the motorway for more than an hour and a half, told BBC News that police warned him to stay in his car, keep his windows closed and not to use air conditioning. He said: "I was beginning to feel a little uneasy. I was beginning to look around for an escape route."