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300 spend night on abandoned train

Hundreds of rail commuters have spent a miserable night aboard an abandoned train, an operator said.

Three hundred passengers were stuck at Three Bridges station in West Sussex after a series of line failures.

On Wednesday evening one train failed on the line near the station, another train got stuck behind it then the 20.17 from Victoria to Littlehampton joined the queue at 21.30.

Bosses decided to move passengers from the first two trains on to the third and try to continue their journey. But it was 1.30am before engineers tried to "shunt" it on to a fast lane.

All passengers were made to get off and stand on the freezing platform at Three Bridges for an hour. The shunt did not work and bosses decided not to risk sending the train on in case it broke down in a remote location, they said.

The passengers spent the rest of the night on the stationary train as it had heat, a Southern spokesman said. Workers at the station provided food and drink from all-night garages.

A bus took about 20 passengers on to Littlehampton and many left in taxis, the spokesman added, leaving about 100 passengers. They finally left Three Bridges station at 5.15am on another train and arrived at their destination at 6.30am.

Another Southern train became stuck at nearby Horley station. Web designer Helen Cross, who lives close to the railway line, said: "They made several attempts to move it back towards Gatwick Airport but it lost all power as the live rail is frozen and covered in snow."

Meanwhile, old slam-door trains would have done a better job of coping with the cold spell than modern rolling stock are managing, a rail expert has said.

Trains with complicated software systems are much more susceptible to ice and snow, said Rail magazine managing editor Nigel Harris. He added that it was "outrageous and disgraceful" that passengers had been stuck overnight on trains. He said: "These incidents were near London and in southern England. It's hardly Outer Mongolia."

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