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'Startled pig' hinders water pipe repairs and causes train disruption

Pickle the pig was 'startled' by the arrival of repair workers, Thames Water said.

It was a scene worthy of The Good Life, as emergency engineers found themselves on a collision course with the eccentricities of south London suburbia.

Efforts to repair a burst water main which yesterday brought chaos to the roads and rail lines in Surbiton - setting of the much-loved BBC sitcom - were thwarted by an unlikely culprit.

A large pig, believed to be a pet named Pickle, blocked the path of a Thames Water repair team as they tried to reach the damaged pipe in a field adjoining residential houses.

It meant the engineers were not immediately able to begin the repair work over fears the “startled” animal would not take kindly to their encroachment on his land.

The situation could hardly have been more urgent. Water from the pipe was blocking one of the busiest rail routes in the country to London Waterloo, affecting thousands of commuters.

Southern Western Railway services were cancelled and delayed due to the problem on the line between Surbiton and Wimbledon, which had also flooded surrounding roads.

A ploy was therefore hatched to ensure the pig at the heart of the drama could be kept a safe distance from the repair team - by using a packet of crisps. Thames Water said a customer had lured Pickle away from the pipe using the crisps as bait, allowing work to finally get under way.

The farcical incident had echoes of an early episode of The Good Life - which followed a family leading a comically self-sufficient life in Surbiton - featuring two troublesome pigs called Pinky and Perky.

Both South Western Railway and Thames Water were forced to apologise for the disruption caused to road and rail journeys by the burst pipe. A video of the scene shared by the rail operator showed huge torrents of water cascading down onto the rail track from the road above.

Work on the burst pipe continued throughout the day and the rail route reopened shortly after 4pm on Wednesday, as rush hour was beginning in the capital. It is understood the work on the broken pipe will continue into Thursday.

Thames Water said the valve to cut the water was in a field occupied by a pet pig called Pickle and engineers were concerned about disturbing it. It is not known what flavour crisps were used to entice the pig away.

Damage caused by the flooding of tracks and signaling equipment meant limited trains were able to run along the line. Network Rail said engineers had inspected the railway embankment and all tracks have been reopened.

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