METRO passengers faced travel chaos after a faulty train short-circuited a power line, causing major disruption to the system.
A live power cable – carrying 1,500 volts – failed on the coast-bound Metro train, leaving those on board stranded between stations.
The train’s system shorted its power unit, filling a carriage with smoke, prompting firefighters to descend on the train line to dampen down the heat.
Meanwhile, passengers told how they forced open the emergency doors to help elderly travellers to safety as smoke poured out of the rear carriage’s doors, and a second train was reversed into Longbenton station to allow passengers to get off.
Engineers battled to mend the faulty train and the affected power line as thousands of commuters braced themselves for long journeys home, with all services cancelled between South Gosforth and Shiremoor, forcing transport bosses to lay on bus replacement services.
A spokesman for Metro operators Nexus reassured: “Passengers were not in any danger. We are sorry for the inconvenience caused.”
It was shortly after 2pm yesterday that the train heading to the coast from South Gosforth suddenly suffered an electrical fault, causing the overhead line to fail above the train before it got to Longbenton.
A power unit inside the train overheated, filling the carriage with smoke which was spotted by residents overlooking the line, who called in emergency services. Ten firefighters then had to dampen down the overheated power unit and a walkway beneath the train that had caught fire.
With trains still whizzing by on the opposite side of the line, around 50 passengers were carefully led off the train and into the Metro depot nearby where Nexus bosses organised taxis for those who had been on board. All trains were cancelled between South Gosforth, Longbenton, Four Lane Ends, Benton, Palmersville, Northumberland Park and Shiremoor for four hours as engineers worked hard to restore power to the train and to the affected cable.
Replacement bus services were put on and all other Metro services were running but subject to delays. By rush hour last night power had finally been restored, but Sam Smith, who had been on board the evacuated train, said the whole experience had been frightening.
Newcastle University student Sam, 19, of Cullercoats, North Tyneside, said: “I was on the front carriage and as we left South Gosforth we went past lots of engineers looking up at the line, and all of a sudden we heard a noise like hailstones smashing into the roof and the power went.
“I could see the power cable hanging down beside the carriage too, which was a bit worrying. I didn’t see any flames though. Then we saw smoke filling the rear carriage, so I ran to the driver’s cab and banged on the window, telling him smoke was pouring out.
“I was sat next to an emergency door handle, so followed the instructions and opened it, then started helping older people off the train because there was a 4ft drop to the ground. Everyone was quite calm until we got to the side of the track, but there were a lot of panicky faces. The driver was great too, making sure we were all safe.”
A woman travelling from the Haymarket to the Coast described the incident as terrifying.
“There was a big bang as the cable hit the roof of the train and then smoke started coming up through the floor of the carriage.
“It was coming down outside too and through the hatches. The driver came on to say don’t panic and to not get off the train but we had no way of letting him know the smoke was coming in.”
A Nexus spokesman said all services were restored by 6pm and said the electrical fault on the train is believed to have caused the overhead line to fail above the train.