The Times May 31, 2006

Trapped in a tunnel on night train to nowhere
By Will Pavia

Almost 150 Tube passengers were left to sweat for two hours

IT WAS hot, it was dark and it was not where they had planned to end their Bank Holiday weekend.

Yesterday Transport for London began an investigation into how 146 passengers came to be marooned on a Tube train in a tunnel beneath Islington for more than two hours after midnight.

The train, one of the last that night, sailed through Warren Street and Euston, picking up the last of the day’s passengers.

There was little indication as it left King’s Cross that it would not reach Walthamstow Central, but at Highbury & Islington there was an announcement over the Tannoy. The driver said that a maintenance team was working on the line ahead, but that they would be able “to move through shortly”.

Veteran Tube riders know that “shortly” is an elastic measure of time that can mean anything between a few minutes and several months.

Ben Brignell, 28, and his wife stepped aboard at Euston. They had passed a blustery day on Hampstead Heath, followed by supper, and expected to be home in Walthamstow by one. “After 45 minutes, the driver said the line had been fixed but we would have to go through at a snail’s pace,” he said. “We went through really slowly. Then they had to turn the power off. It went dark, but back-up lights came on. It was about 1.55am.”

Chris Charles, 37, who was travelling to Hornsey, said that most people were calm. This, after all, was the Underground: Londoners had seen bombings, attempted bombings, engineering works and attempted engineering works. There was little new under the sun.

“There was an announcement but we could only make out one word in four, so we didn’t really know what was going on,” Mr Charles said.

Waiting for an announcement, the passengers did the unthinkable. They began to talk to each other (That doesn't happen very often in England - especially London). “At first people were laughing at the announcements,” Mr Brignell said. “Some started to offer round food and drink. We all kind of came together.

“There was one woman who was going on a trip to Exeter soon. There was a guy who runs a restaurant in Exeter, so he asked her to pop in. I don’t think we will see any of them again, although one lady did offer us a lift home.”

As the ordeal continued a few passengers became frantic. “The alarm kept going off — people were pulling it out of frustration,” Mr Brignell said. “One lady had an attack of claustrophobia. Another woman had a panic attack — we had to give her some space.”

According to Mr Brignell, when the maintenance team had finished Transport for London was still unable to turn on the power because it could not account for one of the workers.

Eventually, passengers were led out on to the tracks to walk back to Highbury & Islington, from where they had come more than two hours earlier.

One passenger who had felt dizzy was seen by paramedics.

A Transport for London spokesman said: “The incident is under investigation. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to passengers.”

Buses and taxis were arranged to take the passengers home.