A TRAIN fire caused chaos for commuters this morning as part of Hampshire's rail network ground to a halt.

Train services between Southampton and Fareham were cancelled after the power had to be switched off after the fire near Fareham station.

About 100 passengers had to be evacuated down a ladder from the Waterloo-bound train soon after it had left Fareham station at about 8.30am after the fire broke out underneath the driver's cab.

Firefighters were called to the scene while passengers were escorted along the railway track back into the station after the electric current had been switched off between Eastleigh and Fareham.

Commuters were left waiting at platforms including Swanwick, Eastleigh, Botley and Hedge End.

Passengers told how they saw sparks and flames coming from the train. Priscilla Thornber, from Whiteley, boarded the 7.45am Portsmouth to Waterloo via Eastleigh service at Fareham.

"We saw sparks coming from the train and a lot of smoke," she said.

"The driver seemed to be running frantically. It was not good. Then we were told to go to the back of the train."

Dave Parker, who was on his way to Winchester when he was evacuated, said: "They got a ladder, which we had to go down on to the bank. Then we had to walk back to the station. I was scared."

Ian Edwards, who boarded the train at Portchester, said the guard had apologised for the slow progress of the train.

"From time to time the lights went out," said Mr Edwards. "When we left Fareham, we got as far as the signal by the first tunnel and there was lots of sparking coming from both ends of the train. Then we stopped and we could see flames coming from the front of the train."

Mr Edwards praised the staff for the way they handled the situation.

Following the incident, some services from Waterloo to Brighton and Portsmouth were able to run, while trains to Waterloo were heavily delayed.

Buses were put on to replace some services and customers waiting at Fareham station were offered free hot drinks.

A South West Trains spokesman said: "There was a small fire under the driver's cab.

"The train came to a stop just outside Fareham station and we managed to get approximately 100 passengers off the train and walked them to Fareham."