By Tosin Suliaman

Commuters feared a terrorist attack as firemen led them to safety through a darkened tunnel

A PACKED commuter train derailed in Liverpool city centre last night after a suspected mechanical fault.
All 119 passengers on board the underground train were safely evacuated after it came off the tracks as it travelled from Lime Street to Central Station. Emergency services said that no serious injuries had been reported after the derailment, in a tunnel shortly after 6pm, although two elderly passengers were treated for shock.

A Merseyside Police spokesman said that it appeared that the derailment had been caused by a mechanical fault. The low-speed derailment happened about 200 yards from Central Station.

Union officials said that a temporary speed restriction of 20mph was in operation inside the tunnel.

The train was full of commuters, a spokesman for Merseyside Fire and Rescue said. “They were on their way home after a hard day’s work,” Alex McDougall told The Times. “This was not how they were planning to end the day.” Mr McDougall said that people were initially disembarked five at a time until firefighters had lit the tunnel.“It was a very successful operation, almost as if it was an exercise,” he said. “It went so well.”

Peter Mulcahy, incident commander for Mersey Regional Ambulance Service, said that no passengers were taken to hospital. He said: “Looking at the passengers, they were very spirited when they came off the train. Some people were quite upset and shocked, but a lot of people just wanted to get on with their normal business and make their way home.”

One passenger said: “I heard a few judders and then the train ground to a stop and the lights went out. At first we were thinking it was a terrorist attack but we were reassured quickly and everyone stayed quite calm. The driver told us the the back carriage had derailed and emergency services would be there as soon as possible.”

Another man said: “The rescue effort was pretty well organised and I don’t think there was any kind of panic. Everyone was in good spirits.”

Another passenger said: “The train just started going crazy. It was just jolting everywhere. We didn’t know what was happening. It was very scary.”

The train had been quite full but everyone on board was calm, she added. “When the train did stop we were very grateful that we were safe. I didn’t see anybody come off their seats but it was jolting about a lot and finally stopped.”

A spokesman for Merseyrail, which operates Liverpool’s underground service, said that emergency procedures had worked according to plan and that there would be a full investigation.

Louise Ellman, the MP for Liverpool Riverside, said that Merseyrail had a very good record of safety.

The underground network was “in many ways a model system”, and an accident would not have been expected to happen, she said. “That’s why I think we need to know more about exactly what has gone wrong.”

Helen King, assistant chief constable of Merseyside Police, said: “The train will now be examined by experts including the Rail Accident Investigation Unit. Clearly we have to be pleased that nobody was hurt and that our plan worked and we could remove everyone.

“All the indications suggest this was caused by some kind of mechanical failure. There is nothing to indicate any type of criminal attack. We want to reassure people of that.”

The service on the affected Wirral line was suspended for the rest of the evening.