Trains back to normal today after fire

PUBLISHED: 07:17 03 December 2001 | UPDATED: 10:58 03 March 2010

TERRIFIED passengers on an Anglia Railways train fled along carriages after smoke and fire threatened to engulf a locomotive on the region's main London commuter line.

TERRIFIED passengers on an Anglia Railways train fled along carriages after smoke and fire threatened to engulf a locomotive on the region's main London commuter line.

More than 100 people were ordered to move down from the burning rear engine as flames tore through it in countryside near Colchester.

Passengers were helped from the carriages by emergency workers after being told to clamber down a ladder at the front of the 10-carriage train during Saturday afternoon's drama.

Jake Adams, 23, from Diss, said: "It was terrifying. There was quite a commotion in the first few carriages because people were so terrified."

Terry Eastwood, 48, from Norwich, added: "When I stuck my head out of the window you could see huge flames lapping over the engine."

The 120 passengers were led along the trackside as firefighters battled the blaze, which crippled services on the region's main rail line between London and Norwich.

Police and paramedics were also quickly on the scene, which happened in Ardleigh close to the Essex/Suffolk border.

Nobody was hurt in the incident, which took hold about half a mile from the busy A120 dual carriageway.

Four fire crews were scrambled from stations in north Essex and managed to stop the blaze spreading into the passenger compartments.

According to one witness, theatre worker Philip Bray, the train – the 2pm service from London to Norwich which stops at Colchester and Ipswich - had been held up just outside Colchester for about half an hour because of problems with the front locomotive.

"We moved off again for a while and then suddenly we stopped dead, with a great jolt.

"We sat there in the middle of the train for a little while, wondering what had happened.

"Then some people came through saying the engine was on fire, and they had been told to move down it.

"We didn't take it too seriously at first. But suddenly the guard came running through the train, shouting to us to get to the front of the train. It was scary.

"Then there was an announcement saying that if anybody was still at the back of the train they should move.

"He said we were evacuating the train, and we should go to the end where there was a ladder," said Mr Bray, who was travelling to an awards ceremony in Norwich.

Mr Bray, who lives in Colchester, added that firefighters managed to open the carriage doors and help passengers scramble down to the trackside, where they were led alongside the train to safety.

"I saw the engine. There were lots of flames. It was scary, but once outside nobody really panicked. At that point it seemed clear nobody was hurt because it was just the engine that was burning."

Passengers were eventually led cross-country to a local pub, where refreshments where provided until coaches and taxis were arranged to take them on the rest of their journey.

Last night, Acting Sub Officer Stuart Hare, of Colchester Fire Station, said: "We had problems getting to the train at first. Fortunately the fire was confined to the engine.

"Everyone was still at one end of the train when we got there. We had to evacuate 120 passengers.

"There was a possibility of the fire spreading up the train, but fortunately, because of the location of the fire in the tractor unit it was less likely than it could have been.

"The passengers were concerned about it, but once they had got off the train they seemed OK.

"Because it was a long train they weren't in any immediate danger once they had got down the end."

Yesterday a spokesman for Anglia Railways, Peter Meades, stressed that the safety of passengers had been the prime concern of the train operator throughout the drama.

"It was a very serious incident and there will be a full inquiry, not only into the technical side of what caused the fire but also how we dealt with it."

He added that some passengers had praised the conductor for the way in which he had coped with the emergency.

"If there is smoke moving towards the passenger section it is right that he should have cleared it, and asked people to move quickly."

Mr Meades said that the fire started after the driver of the train had stopped it because of an electronic fault report.

An inspection showed some smoke coming from the rear locomotive and the fire brigade was called.

British Transport Police and Anglia Railways staff from Ipswich were on the scene quickly to assess the situation and help the emergency services, he added.

The blaze caused delays for around three hours on Saturday evening services between London and Norwich. However, further hold-ups followed as Railtrack engineers inspected the overhead power cables to check for damage.

"We would like to apologise for the frustration and delays caused. There was significant disruption for the rest of the day," said Mr Meades.

"Passengers who faced excessive delays should contact our Customer Relations office in Ipswich and we will arrange compensation."

Services will be running as normal today.

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