DOZENS of children made a dramatic escape from a coach moments before it went up in flames on a busy route through the New Forest.

Cub and beaver scouts from Chandler's Ford were on a day trip to Brownsea Island when the vehicle pulled over on the A31 near Stoney Cross.

All 57 passengers were evacuated before the coach was gutted by fire. No one was hurt.

Eyewitnesses said a car drew alongside the coach to alert the driver that its rear end was on fire.

The driver immediately pulled over and the children were swiftly evacuated.

Assistant district commissioner Julie Spiller, who was on board, said: "All the people, all the kids are safe. They came off the coach within moments and we were then looked after by the Travelodge and Little Chef staff.

"The fire brigade and ambulances were there within minutes."

The driver pulled over safely as quickly as he could, Ms Spiller added.

Two coaches set off from Chandler's Ford this morning and have now completed their journey to Brownsea Island, off Poole Harbour.

Two fire crews were called to the westbound carriageway at 9am after receiving multiple 999 calls from the public.

A spokesman for the fire service said the Wheelers coach was “well alight” on the crews’ arrival.

Firefighters extinguished the flames and remained at the scene to damp it down.

The cause of the blaze is not yet known, and a fire service spokesman said it would not be investigated.

One lane was closed as a result of the incident, resulting in queuing traffic and congestion back to junction 2 of the M27.