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Carol O'Brien reports
"The passengers were taken to a nearby hotel"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 7 February, 2001, 16:02 GMT
'Slow' rescue mission criticised
Train at Kinbrace
The train got stuck in deep snow
A passenger who spent six hours on a snowbound train in the Scottish Highlands has said the rescue operation was slow in reaching the stranded locomotive.

Colin Elder said rescuers had taken a long time in getting to the Inverness to Wick service which became stuck at Kinbrace at just after 1930 GMT on Tuesday.

Other passengers have criticised ScotRail for not abandoning the journey earlier in the day.

Eighteen people were taken from the train at about 0130 GMT on Wednesday.

Police got help from local shepherd Hugh Mackenzie, using his all-terrain vehicle to fight their way through deep snow to reach the train.

All-terrain vehicle
An all-terrain vehicle was used for the rescue
The passengers were taken to a hotel at nearby Helmsdale to recover.

Mr Elder, an offshore worker on his way home to Wick, said: "We could see out the windows until it got dark, then snow pretty much covered the windows.

"I wasn't really worried about it, but they took a long time to come and get us."

Mr Elder said he thought that the rescue mission, which involved British Transport Police, Northern Constabulary and ScotRail, was slow in getting off the ground.

He said: "It was all run from Glasgow, I think, and what does Glasgow know about up here in the Highlands?

Heating failure

"There was no snow or wind last night, but if there had been snow and wind they might not have got to us.

"There was not hot water from yesterday afternoon. There was cans of Coke, but that's not going to do much good if it is getting cold.

"There was no heating on the train after so long, because the train wasn't running and it has to be running to have heat. "

snowy track
Rail services have been affected across the country
The train had departed from Inverness at about 1130 GMT on Tuesday with a locomotive snow plough.

However, it became stuck after it hit a wall of snow.

A second train travelling in the opposite direction also became stuck as it tried to head back from Thurso to Wick after ScotRail decided to abandon the service.

The spokesman said: "The train had been due to come south preceded by the snowplough, but it was decided with the worsening conditions that that would not be possible."

Emergency services later rescued the three passengers on board the train from the spot at Lynegar, near Wick, where it was stranded just after 1700.

Train derailed

A later train from Inverness to Wick terminated its journey at Brora, where passengers were put up in a hotel overnight by ScotRail.

Rail services have been badly affected by the severe weather north of the border.

A ScotRail train struck a tree and derailed in appalling conditions a mile and a half south of Blair Atholl, Perthshire, on Tuesday morning.

The driver of the three-carriage Turbostar, with 35 passengers on board, suffered a cut to his head and a woman sustained a leg injury.

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See also:

06 Feb 01 | Scotland
Sea sickener for ferry passengers
06 Feb 01 | Scotland
Frozen north: Scotland in pictures
11 Dec 00 | Scotland
Flagship trains add to rail woes
07 Feb 01 | Scotland
Snow and ice round-up
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