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Last Updated: Friday, 20 June, 2003, 05:27 GMT 06:27 UK
Fire closes main rail line
Residents at Haymill Community Centre
Evacuated residents have been singing to keep their spirits up
Tens of thousands of commuters are suffering severe delays after a fire closed the main rail line between London's Paddington station and Reading.

Police say lines will stay closed until Friday lunchtime causing further chaos on the busy route.

Fifty-five firefighters tackled flames threatening to explode six gas canisters near the railway line in Burnham, Buckinghamshire, on Thursday.

Heavy smoke and the threat of explosion mean all services out of Paddington are cancelled and all trains from the west are terminating at Reading.

People living near the fire have been forced to leave their homes and may not be allowed back until Friday afternoon, to allow the acetylene cylinders to cool down.

Map of area
Thames Trains is hoping to provide bus services for part of the route.

Police are urging people to stay away from the area near Burnham station, on the Berkshire and Buckinghamshire border.

Burnham Lane, Station Road and the surrounding roads are closed to traffic to allow emergency services to get to the scene.

Residents have been evacuated to nearby Haymill Community Centre, where they were keeping spirits high by singing wartime songs.

Major incident

One local woman told BBC Berkshire: "I'm a bit concerned about my mother.

"She is 77 and it's not what you want."

A spokeswoman for Thames Valley Police said: "The main problem is keeping the cylinders cool as they are explosive above a certain temperature."

Thames Valley Police have declared the fire a major incident, but say they are not treating it as suspicious.

Both Thames Trains and First Great Western Trains advised people not to travel on Friday unless absolutely necessary.

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