THE centre of Hartlepool was brought to a standstill for more than two hours after a large-scale diesel spillage left roads “too dangerous” to use.
The slippery leak of fuel saw hundreds of drivers held up in traffic queues and bus users left stranded after police cordoned off the town’s main traffic network.
Stockton Street at the junction with Church Street was closed all the way down past Hartlepool College of Further Education to the traffic lights with Park Road.
A section of Victoria Road up to Swainson Street was also a no-go area.
No traffic, not even buses or taxis, were allowed through the town centre, and any cars which needed to leave Middleton Grange Shopping Centre’s Stockton Street multi-storey car park were directed out of town on the wrong side of the carriageway towards Park Road.
Any cars coming into town along Stockton Street were being directed either left up Park Road, or, initially, right down Huckelhoven Way.
Once the Stockton Street route was skid-free and re-opened at 2.15pm, police then closed Hucklehoven Way as its surface was also deemed too dangerous to use because of the fuel spill.
The cordon, which left the town centre unusually quiet, remained in place while a team of firefighters and roadsweepers set to work cleaning up the spillage, which was also reported to have leaked into York Road, Mainsforth Terrace, Murray Street, and St Paul’s Road.
Fire crews used brushes, water sprays and detergents to clean the road surface while the road sweepers relayed around the affected roads several times sucking up the cleaning agent.
Council workers then spread a mixture of grit and salt onto the road to soak up any left-over fuel.
The vehicle, or source of the leak, is still not known.
A spokesman for Cleveland Police said the huge clean-up operation was put in place because the road was “too dangerous for road users in that condition”.
He added: “We had to move in and close the roads because there could have been a serious accident had it been left.”
Crew manager Stuart Anderson, from Stranton Fire Station, said: “There was a diesel spill from an unknown source along Stockton Road from Victoria Road past the college and along on to Hucklehoven Way and Mainsforth Terrace.
“One appliance from Stranton Fire Station attended the incident and we have used hose reel jets and surface cleaner to assist the Borough Council in cleaning the road surfaces.
“We attended the incident for about two hours and then moved onto Hucklehoven Way.”
A spokesman for Hartlepool Borough Council said: “The council helped assist the clean-up operation with two large mechanical sweepers going up and down the Stockton Street carriageway sucking up the cleaning agent put down by firefighters.
“Council workers then spread a mixture of grit and salt on the road late yesterday afternoon to soak up any remaining residue.”
Bus operator Stagecoach diverted services from Victoria Road, down Museum Road, with only one bus stop being missed.
A spokeswoman said: “Obviously, we had no notice to be able to warn customers but a driver has now been sent down to the area to direct people to where they can catch the buses on routes 7 and 36, which were affected.”