A COMMUTER train from London with more than 600 people on board had to be evacuated at Winchester station after an electrical fault filled the buffet car with smoke.

Passengers were left waiting on the platform as the emergency services were called to the incident shortly after 6pm yesterday.

The chaos is thought to have started after a fault in the air conditioning system led to smoke billowing out into the packed carriage of the 5.15pm Waterloo to Weymouth service as the train passed Micheldever.

At 7pm the empty train was towed to Eastleigh train depot for repairs.

Commuters then had to board later services, all subsequently delayed, to continue their journeys home.

A British Transport Police spokesman said no flames were seen in the carriage but for safety reasons everyone had to be evacuated and the station had to be closed.

He added that some of the passengers were left angry at the decision to close the station. However, he said most accepted the reasoning behind the evacuation.

One passenger, who asked not to be named, said he thought the evacuation procedures at Winchester were poor.

He said: "Passengers were evacuated and stood on the platform. South West Trains employees then ordered all passengers to evacuate the station, but there are no emergency exits at Winchester and there were hundreds of people to evacuate.

"Passengers had to file past the smoke and, the exit being narrow, took some time to get out.

"It is basic knowledge that you should always take people away from the danger and never towards it."

Four fire engines along with the special equipment unit and ambulance crews and the police were called to the scene, with the incident dealt with in under 30 minutes.

Winchester mum Anne Lea, 28, who was waiting for her husband at the station last night, said: "When I got here there were hundreds of people hanging around and looking confused.

"My husband was supposed to be on the next train but he is going to be late."

A spokesman for South West Trains said: "The passengers were asked to walk past the smoky carriage, but our priority was always their safety.

"Members of our staff, along with the fire service and the police were all concerned with making sure the passengers stayed calm and moved away in an orderly manner to ensure their safety, and there were quite a large number of our staff at the station to assist them."