Passengers stranded in tunnel after train is derailed

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A COMMUTER train from Gillingham to Charing Cross was derailed yesterday, leaving its 56 passengers stranded inside a 1.5 mile long tunnel.

The 12.48pm Connex South Central service was derailed in the Strood to Higham tunnel, Kent, after the train's leading coach and the first set of wheels of the second carriage went off the tracks. Firefighters discovered one person suffering from shock and another with minor injuries. They were both treated at the scene.

The cause of the derailment has yet to be identified, but a Railtrack spokeswoman said yesterday: "There was chalk debris on the line, whether this was the cause or the effect of the derailment will form the basis of the investigation."

James Allen, 20, of Greenwich, south east London, who was on the train after visiting his family in Chatham, criticised Connex for not having a guard on board or hammers to smash open doors to escape.

Mr Allen said: "Connex said they do not put profit before services, but they do. If the driver was injured there would have been no one to look after us." He said the first sign of trouble came with large bumps, then there was a loud bang and smoke started drifting through the train's carriages.