Commuter train turns sleeper after snow strands passengers overnight

Hundreds of rail passengers were trapped on trains overnight after icy conditions brought their journey to a shuddering halt.

The 5.05pm South Western Railway service between Waterloo and Weymouth broke down near Christchurch, Dorset, prompting tailbacks along the line.

The third rail on the track - from which trains draw power - had frozen as a cold snap gripped the country, Network Rail said.

Night soon closed in, leaving commuters on five trains stranded without heating during one of the coldest March days in recent years.

Rescue trains were scrambled to free the passengers - but many were stuck for more than 15 hours.

Commuter Philip Brown was on the 5.05pm service along with 50 others when it hit trouble near the New Forest.

The 49-year-old insurance company worker, who was travelling from London Waterloo to Bournemouth, Dorset, told the Press Association: "We got stuck in the New Forest, at Sway station.

"We were there for three hours and when we eventually got moving the train stopped again between stations and the train lost power and we lost heat and lights. There were several trains stuck.

"There was no buffet car facility, the toilets were getting pretty blocked up during the night.

"People were just getting on with it, there were 50 of us, although one guy got pretty agitated. People were taking it in their stride, there were a lot of people sat talking.

"It was too cold to sleep; there were people with jumpers wrapped around their legs trying to keep themselves warm.

"I didn't have any food or water. I couldn't tell you how cold it was but it was cold enough to prevent you from sleeping."

Philip Brown was stranded for 15 hours (PA)
Philip Brown was stranded for 15 hours (PA)

Mr Brown said that at 8.30am a second train pulled alongside to rescue them.

He said: "We were taken off the train by a Crosscountry service that pulled up alongside, they put a little bridge up that we were able to cross."

Network Rail said the "ongoing extreme weather meant emergency services were not able to evacuate people sooner".

Shane White was travelling between Cardiff and Bournemouth when he changed for the final leg of his journey at Salisbury at around 8pm.

It was 12 hours before he would emerge - in daylight - at his destination.

He posted images online showing his fellow passengers curled up beneath thick winter coats to stay warm.

The service, also bound for Weymouth, broke down just after 9pm with around 200 passengers on board, he said.

He tweeted: "They have been trying all night to come up with a solution but trains have ran out of battery power etc, there was some rain that has frozen points and other electrical connections. With all the roads blocked and vehicle snowed in there is no road transport available."

Really not happy now, stuck on the train near New Milton on way to Bournemouth at 0324 in the morning having left Cardiff at 1630 last night, train in front broke down, then this one has spent nearly 5 hours trying to get power from a frozen track, no connection due to ice. pic.twitter.com/8yAXJCSZh2

-- Shane White Photography (@airzoneuk) March 2, 2018

Passenger Rob Luther, who was on the broken-down train near Christchurch, told BBC Breakfast that people were wrapped in hats, coats and scarves as if they were "going on a skiing holiday".

A South Western Railway spokesman said: "We sincerely apologise to passengers who were stranded on trains overnight.

"They have all been taken to Bournemouth station where South Western Railway staff are providing hot food and drinks.

"Hotel accommodation will be provided for those unable to travel onwards from Bournemouth."

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