Passengers stranded in 115F heat for two hours

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The Independent Online

Rail travellers smashed windows with emergency hammers to escape from overheated carriages yesterday after a power failure left them stranded between stations in baking heat.

Rail travellers smashed windows with emergency hammers to escape from overheated carriages yesterday after a power failure left them stranded between stations in baking heat.

Nearly 300 passengers were trapped for two hours after the 2.55pm train from Newcastle to London Kings Cross, came to a halt near Sawtry in Cambridgeshire at around 5.30pm. The power loss left six trains stranded between Huntingdon and Peterborough stations and caused serious disruption along the East Coast mainline.

As temperatures rose to 115F, on-board catering staff began distributing free drinks, but these soon ran out and panic set in as some people on board began to faint. "It was dreadful. People were fainting and repeatedly pulling the emergency cord," said a passenger, Michael Steed, 70. "Eventually a woman having a panic attacked grabbed an emergency hammer and broke through a window and they eventually opened the doors.

"The staff seemed to do well but were very slow to appreciate the severity of the medical situation. It seems that it was rail managers away from the train who insisted we were kept on board and not allowed to get off. It was only when people started breaking windows to get air that they reversed the decision."

Firemen and paramedics arrived to administer first aid and the Cambridgeshire Police helicopter flew in water and medical aid.

Another passenger, Simon Walker, said that passengers "rebelled" after conditions got "unbearable" in the train. "There are some people suffering quite badly," he said. "They ran out of water and in the end they were giving away everything free. I've seen people walking around with bottles of champagne just to get some liquid into them."

More than 700 passengers, including Austin Mitchell, the MP for Grimsby, were evacuated from the six trains throughout the evening, with a four further trains stranded in stations.

Mr Mitchell said: "A few people fainted. The ambulance and emergency services arrived reasonably quickly." He said he believed the air conditioning had failed in the train.

A Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue spokesman said eight passengers had been taken to hospital suffering from heat-related injuries.

A spokesman for the ambulance service said: "What we understand is that they were in there for a while in carriages where you cannot open the windows. People were pretty hot and bothered and some had breathing difficulties."

A spokesman for Network Rail, said the power failure meant no trains had left Kings Cross on the main route north since 5pm, but engineers were expected to have resolved the problem by this morning.

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