Emergency crews from the fire service and police attended Petersfield railway station today after passengers reported a fire on board a Northbound train.
South Western Railway staff stopped and evacuated the ten-carriage train at Petersfield after passengers noticed smoke and a smell of burning in the fifth carriage.
Fire crew members told us that nobody was hurt.
We spoke to these eyewitnesses and passengers affected by the incident.
The train on which the fire was reported is one of the recently-refurbished “Class 442” units which are 30-years old. They entered service on the London Waterloo to Portsmouth line this month.
The affected service was the 10.15 from Portsmouth Harbour to London Waterloo.
It arrived into Petersfield just one minute behind schedule at 10.48 but didn’t leave the station until 12.51 when it was driven to Haslemere. The onward service to London was then cancelled.
Control point in the car park
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service deployed four vehicles including three fire engines and established a control point for the incident in the car park off Frenchmans Road. We counted 18 fire service staff at the railway station.
South Western Railway organised replacement buses to take passengers to their destinations. Some trains started to run after one o’clock but delays and cancellations continued to show on the station boards into the afternoon.
Eyewitness tells of smoke and smell
Sarah was one of scores of passengers on the train who were caught up in the drama. The disruption meant Sarah had to reschedule a hospital appointment. She told Petersfield Community Radio what happened to her.
I was on the carriage in front of where it happened and apparently it filled with smoke and there was a smell. Most people left the train because of an electric fire smell. Then we were all told to get off, and all told to steer clear of the train and then we were all told to evacuate the platform.
What could have caused it?
We know Fire and Rescue Service personnel used heat-detecting equipment to identify an overheating brake. The brake would have caused a lot of firey smoke and heat but nobody has reported seeing flames.
Railway experts who have spoken to Petersfield Community Radio suggest that the brakes in the fifth carriage could have been locked because of a fault or even human error. We understand this train was in for overnight maintenance last night.
While modern trains will alert the driver to a locked or “dragging” brake, our experts say the only indication a driver would have of such a fault on these older ‘442’ units would be if they could feel the train not pulling properly, or if somebody raised the alarm.
Another bad day for train users
In addition to the fire scare in Petersfield, a piece of railway track was damaged between Rowlands Castle and Petersfield today. This meant that trains had to travel through that area Northbound as slow as 5 miles per hour at one time.
There is no suggestion of any connection between the damaged rail and the overheating brakes that caused today’s evacuation.