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Worrying fire risks at Britannia hotel lead to fire enforcement notice, after Which? Travel visit

Five out of six chain hotels we visited had safety issues.

The Britannia International, a 13-storey hotel in London’s Canary Wharf, was given an enforcement notice by London Fire Brigade earlier this year, after we reported it for serious fire safety flaws.

Which? Travel visited The Britannia International hotel in February and then again in April as part of a major investigation into hotel fire safety.

Surveyor and fire safety expert Arnold Tarling, who visited with us in February, found numerous problems and described it as ‘horrendous’. 

Most of the fire doors he tried didn’t work properly, meaning they wouldn’t prevent fire spreading as effectively as they should. One door to the fire escape locked after you pushed through it. This meant there would be no way out if the fire escape route itself was blocked or filling with smoke. 

There were also broken hatches to the laundry chute, meaning a fire starting in the laundry room - a known fire risk according to Arnold - could easily have spread throughout the hotel.

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After our visit Arnold reported the hotel to London Fire Brigade, which then visited and issued an enforcement notice. It cited serious problems including ‘failure to provide and/or maintain adequate and clearly indicated emergency routes and exits that lead to a place of safety'.

Two months later - Britannia issues still not fixed

The enforcement notice gives the hotel until September to make changes or it could face prosecution but in a comment supplied to us in March Britannia said that it had ‘investigated and addressed’ the issues we found. It also told us: ‘We invest heavily in fire safety at all of our hotels and will continue to do so.’

However, when our video team revisited in April - two months after our initial visit - they found, not just the same problems, but that some aspects of the hotel were even worse, with furniture blocking fire exits. 

We put the new findings to Britannia but it has not provided us with any further response.

See what we found when we looked around the Britannia International for the second time in the video above.

Another Britannia told to improve fire safety

After visiting the Britannia International we also checked in to another of the chain’s hotels, the Britannia Heathlands in Bournemouth.

Here we found broken fire doors, missing fire extinguishers and extinguishers that hadn’t been checked by their due date. 

We reported this hotel to its local fire service, Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue, too. It visited two days after our complaint and told us it had asked the hotel to rectify problems. The hotel also said it had 'investigated and addressed' the issues.

Five out of six hotels had fire safety issues

We also made visits to Premier Inn, Travelodge, Holiday Inn and Best Western hotels. The Premier Inn was the only one where we didn’t find at least one issue.

At the Travelodge there was an electric heater in our room with a broken casing. The chain told us it was only there because of heating issues on the night of our stay and that it had since been removed. 

The Holiday Inn, like Britannia, had a host of issues, which we reported to the London Fire Brigade. The hotel closed for major refurbishments a few days after our visit and is no longer owned by Holiday Inn. 

There were also minor problems at the Best Western, which the owners told us they’d resolved after we reported them.

Numerous fire safety issues at UK holiday accommodation

As well as carrying out visits to chain hotels we also found alarming evidence that there are fewer safety audits by fire services than ever before - and that some hotels still have the combustible cladding that was blamed for the Grenfell Tower tragedy.