Commuters walk off train during delays

PUBLISHED: 06:42 25 January 2003 | UPDATED: 16:12 24 February 2010

MORE than 100 furious passengers forced the driver of a stranded train to let them get off and walk back to a station after problems paralysed East Anglia's main line into London.

MORE than 100 furious passengers forced the driver of a stranded train to let them get off and walk back to a station after problems paralysed East Anglia's main line into London.

The incident happened as frustrations boiled over on a day of misery on the Norwich to London line yesterday – with some trains cancelled and others delayed for up to three-and-a-half hours.

Last night, some trains were still facing delays of up to half an hour, though services were due to be back to normal this morning .

The passengers broke free from a trapped train in Essex yesterday afternoon which was held up by an engine fire on another locomotive.

However, their actions were later condemned by Great Eastern Railways as potentially "very dangerous".

The engine fire led to around 30 trains being delayed at lunchtime on the line to and from Liverpool Street, Colchester and Ipswich, and it wreaked havoc throughout the afternoon.

Mike Yardley, of Brightlingsea, who was on a Great Eastern Railways train halted between Ingatestone and Shenfield, said: "We were stuck for around two hours with little or no information.

"Eventually, a group of us told the driver that if he did not allow us to get off the train, we would force the emergency doors ourselves.

"He responded by leading us to the rear of the train and broke the emergency glass himself, allowing us to climb down on to the track.

"More than 100 of us then walked along the lineside path for more than a quarter of a mile back to Ingatestone to wait for the system to start operating again."

Mr Yardley said passengers with flights to catch and appointments to keep were becoming increasing short-fused because of the enormous delays.

"Once again, this was an example of the railways failing us. Our trains and the network as a whole just cannot cope."

Yesterday's problems started with the first Anglia Railways train of the day, the 5.05 from Norwich to Liverpool Street. After picking up passengers in Suffolk and north Essex, the locomotive "failed" at Gidea Park in east London.

A rescue locomotive was delayed by a massive signalling malfunction at Shenfield, which also caused delays to London-bound commuters.

The biggest problem, however, was when an Anglia Railways diesel locomotive, hauling empty carriages, caught fire at Shenfield, leading to the overhead power supply being switched off for two hours.

Trains to and from London were trapped either side of Shenfield from 11.30am to 2pm, paralysing the entire East Anglia main line.

Stuart Jackson of Woodbridge, who works in the City of London, said his InterCity train from Ipswich was two hours late because of the locomotive failure at Gidea Park.

"Once again, it was absolute mayhem on East Anglia's railways," he said.

Michael West, of Coddenham, an architect and town planner, has been a regular commuter for 33 years. Because of the rail disruption, he spent over three hours on a train trying to get into London from Ipswich and just under three hours on the way back.

He said: "I had a big business disaster because of the delays and if it had not been for my mobile phone my day would have been completely ruined.

"I believe that if two Anglia trains broke down this would indicate that the company does not allow the time or money for these electrical locomotives to be properly maintained. They are all over 30 years old and being flogged to death."

Peter Northfield, of GER, admitted last night: "Today was not a very good day for people travelling." But he condemned the actions of people forcing the driver to let them off the trapped train: "It did not achieve anything and could have been very dangerous."

Peter Meades of Anglia Railways said the combination of incidents had caused the East Anglia main line to grind to a halt and the knock-on effect was felt in the evening rush-hour.

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