Thousands of furious holiday-makers making their way to Gatwick Airport were left stranded due to a “woefully inadequate” rail replacement service.
Police were on the scene as frustrated crowds, unable to use Gatwick Express trains to the airport, continued to swell into Sunday evening as they waited for the buses.
Southern Rail had advised during the week that it would be operating a bus replacement service between Redhill and Gatwick while “essential maintenance work” was carried out.
Many people took to social media, posting pictures of huge queues and describing the scenes as “disgusting” and “shocking”.
Crispin Blunt, MP for Reigate, wrote: “Dangerous shambles on stairs in Redhill Station behind barriers before people get to join this shocking queue of people trying to get to Gatwick Airport.
“Final insult is full Gatwick Express prices being charged by Southern Rail.”
Melany Dominguez was among those who missed their flights and blamed poor planning and crowd management by the rail service.
She said she saw three police officers trying to manage the crowd which she estimated numbered in the thousands:
“People were getting agitated,” she said.
Cory Acasio told of chaotic scenes as frustrated commuters tripped over and pushed one another as the crowds grew.
He said: “I stopped at the very front entrance to try and let an elderly person on, but no sooner did I make the gap that someone just barged right through, literally pushing me against the entrance.”
He also saw passengers nearly trampling one another.
“Not sure if there were injuries as I was focused on moving forward, but I did look back and saw the people who tripped get up and some people did help, but most were just aggravated and focused on getting in the bus,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Southern said: “We apologise to any passengers delayed at Redhill this afternoon. Demand for the rail replacement service has been greater than expected.
“We will ensure that plans for upcoming weekend engineering works take a higher capacity requirement into consideration.
“We have altered the routes of a number of additional bus services drafted in to help to get passengers on the move, offering a shorter Redhill to Gatwick route.
“These additional buses have helped to significantly reduce passenger wait time for connections.
“We have buses scheduled to run every 5 minutes until the end of service and have additional staff at the station to help those waiting for them. We also have ticket acceptance in place with other rail operators to help passengers with their onward journeys.
“We advise passengers to allow additional time for their journeys if using the rail replacement service.”
British Transport Police confirmed four officers were sent at 1.44pm to help with the flow of people.