Train arson hits rail services

By James HoreTHE chairman of a commuters' group has criticised arsonists after an attack on a train caused a day of chaos for rail passengers.Thousands of rail commuters faced delays yesterday after the fire left a train engulfed in flames and crippled part of the region's main line to London.

By James Hore

THE chairman of a commuters' group has criticised arsonists after an attack on a train caused a day of chaos for rail passengers.

Thousands of rail commuters faced delays yesterday after the fire left a train engulfed in flames and crippled part of the region's main line to London.

The blaze, on a train in sidings at North Station in Colchester, was spotted by a fire crew who were returning from an emergency call at about 11.55pm on Tuesday.


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Firefighters had to wait for railway engineers to switch off the 25,000-volt overhead power lines before they could tackle the burning train.

The fire had initially started inside the middle carriage of a five-carriage train which had been left in the sidings.

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Firefighters could not prevent the blaze spreading to one end of the Great Eastern train and ripping through all but two of the carriages.

The incident caused delays to train services yesterday, partly due to the shell of the burnt-out train blocking in other rolling stock and also fire damage to signalling and telecommunications equipment alongside the track, which in turn caused problems with the points system.

Only Anglia Railways ran services through Colchester, with First Great Eastern operating a restricted service between London and North Station.

Thousands of commuters saw delays throughout the day, with the early morning peak seeing hold-ups of up to two hours.

In the morning, a replacement bus service was brought into action to ferry passengers around the affected stretch of track.

But by about 11am delays were down to about 20 minutes on those services which had not been cancelled.

A spokeswoman for Network Rail said: “The fire happened on sidings adjacent to platform five. It caused damage to communication cables.”

A spokeswoman for First Great Eastern said closed circuit television coverage of the area was available and would be passed on to the investigating authorities.

“Two of our units have been completely gutted and will probably never be back in service,” she added.

A spokesman for Anglia Railways said: “There was an arson attack on a Great Eastern train stabled at Colchester. It was an act of vandalism which caused considerable damage.”

Maurice Austin, from the Rail Passengers Committee of Eastern England (RPCEE), praised rail operators for managing to run train services yesterday in spite of the fire.

“As I understand, they've done very well. Everybody's anger should not be directed at the railway company, but at the mindless thugs and vandals who perpetrated it,” he said.

“Railway crime is a big issue. A lot of people seem to take great pleasure in damaging lines and equipment.

“The fact there are not more people killed on the railways is down to the vigilance of staff and the British Transport Police.”

A British Transport Police spokesman said it appeared the fire was arson and could have been started deliberately by youths trespassing on the line.

He added officers investigating the blaze would be examining any security camera footage of the surrounding area, he added.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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