Fire incident puts pressure on One
Further pressure was put on rail company One to upgrade its rolling stock following a fire in a wheel of one of its 30-year-old mainline carriages.
By TOM SMITHARD
Further pressure was yesterday put on rail company One to upgrade its rolling stock following a fire in a wheel of one of its 30-year-old mainline carriages.
About 20 passengers had to be evacuated from the 10pm Norwich to London express on Tuesday when a fire developed in the wheel and break mechanism of a carriage as the train approached Stowmarket station.
No one was hurt but passengers had to wait 40 minutes to be taken onwards, while commuters trying to leave London were also delayed when firefighters closed the line to deal with the blaze. Firefighters left the scene at 11.50pm.
Yesterday a spokesman for One said that a full investigation had been launched into the causes of the fire. Peter Meades confirmed that the carriage involved was one of the Mark III type, which are now about 30 years old.
But he said that the age of the carriage would not have caused the fire, as components in the wheel and breaking systems are no more likely to fail than those in more modern rolling stock.
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In 2004, One leased 120 Mark III carriages from supplier Porterbrook. They had previously been used on the Virgin west coast mainline but were removed after Virgin decided to upgrade its stock to safer, more reliable models.
After the recent derailment in Cumbria that killed one person, Virgin boss Richard Branson said he feared the accident would have been far worse had the old carriages still been in operation on the line.
In a recent report on the region's rail service, Norfolk MPs Ian Gibson, Richard Bacon and Norman Lamb criticised the "outdated" rolling stock now being used on the Great Eastern Mainline.
Yesterday Dr Gibson, Labour MP for Norwich North, said: "As everyone knows, whenever you buy second-hand goods you should be suspicious. It's time One woke up to these carriages' potential danger. Thank goodness the fire did not cause more damage this time."
Mr Bacon, Conservative MP for South Norfolk, said: "I shall be contacting One to find out what caused this fire. This will be a matter of concern for everyone using this line and I want to find out how much of their stock has now been upgraded, as promised."
Last night Mr Meades said: "These carriages are completely safe and meet all industry standards of safety and engineering.
"The Mark III carriages are part of the contract agreed with the Department for Transport and we have spent £25m upgrading them to meet industry standards.
"There is an investigation going on into what happened. That might tell us that the fire is a result of a component failure. If so, that can occur on a train of any type as components do fail from time to time."