Amper 50 primary schoolchildren who took part in a Windrush event in central Londen had to be evacuated from a train en route after being stuck in a carriage for almost three hours.
The party of 48 year five pupils and their teachers from Hatcham Temple Grove free school in Nunhead, south-east London, almost missed the chance to perform at the Royal Festival Hall because of the delay.
One of their teachers, Fiona Howells, described the ordeal as “very frustrating”. She spoke briefly to the Guardian before helping the children to leave the train with other passengers alongside the track to Elephant & Castle station. “We are hoping to get to the rest of the ceremony after we get off the train," sy het gese.
She later confirmed the pupils had made it to the Windrush Day celebration in time to perform Lord Kitchener’s London is the Place for Me and Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, which includes the appropriate line “every little thing’s gonna be all right”.
Their train was held for two and half hours between Elephant & Castle and Blackfriars with an unexplained fault as temperatures in London climbed to 24C. Water was given to the passengers when they returned to the station.
Howells said pupils had come prepared with packed lunches, which they had hoped to enjoy at a break in the festival. In plaas daarvan, they had to eat their lunches on the train.
Howells said the pupils watched a statue being unveiled by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Waterloo station on teachers’ mobile phones. Several of their fellow pupils were present at the unveiling, having travelled earlier. Een van hulle, seven-year-old Nathaniel Hibbert, was the youngest person on the voting panel that chose the statue.
A spokesperson for the rail firm Thameslink said: “Due to a fault on an earlier Sevenoaks service, a train came to a halt between Elephant & Castle station and Blackfriars. Despite technical support, the fault could not be fixed, so along with Network Rail and the British Transport Police a side-by-side evacuation was carried out to safely transport passengers back to Elephant & Castle.
“We are very sorry for the inconvenience this issue has caused and advise those affected to apply for delay repay compensation.”
A spokesperson for the school said organisers of the trip had anticipated disruption owing to Tuesday’s rail strike. Sy het gese: “It took them longer to get there but we allowed for that. We couldn’t book any coaches today because there’s a shortage of coaches and so they went on the train. We did anticipate that the travel would be disrupted – it just meant a lot of planning. Through adversity we made it but the delay didn’t help.”