The passengers had been stranded on the badly damaged train for around a couple of hours before they were helped onto a new train. One commuter, Monica Darn, said one or two people were suffering shock or minor injuries. Describing what unfolded, she said: “At 9.50 the train had just left Peterborough Station when there was a bang and sudden braking and a terrible burning smell and bits of something like mud splattering the windows before we came to a safe stop on the track.” Network Rail and Great Northern both said they were called to between Peterborough and Huntingdon.
The line in both directions was shut until 2pm, leading to cancellations and delays of up to 60 minutes. A spokesperson from Network Rail said: “At around 10am on Sunday we received reports that a train had struck several cows on the line between Huntingdon and Peterborough. Eleven cows were confirmed to have died.
“There were no injuries to passengers or crew and passengers were evacuated from the scene with the help of the emergency services.” The East of England Ambulance said it sent its Hazardous Aerial Response Team, two ambulance officers and an ambulance crew to Holme Level Crossing.
A spokesman said nobody required taking to hospital. Fire crews from Stanground, Dogsthorpe and Sawtry together with a rescue vehicle from Dogsthorpe were called to the train.
A spokeswoman for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service said the fire crews had gone to Mile Drove in Yaxley with firefighters bringing a platform to evacuate 280 passengers from the broken down train to the replacement train. Ms Darn had plenty of praise for the actions of staff in handling the situation. She added: “One of the two heroines of the event was the driver Sandra who must have had a horrible scene unfold in front of her – she remained in control and seemed extremely competent. “Her voice was always steady and she acted quickly and apparently safely and thoroughly. The other heroine was Lisa, an on-the-way-to-work British Transport Police officer. “She came through the train within a few minutes of it coming to a halt and checked no one was hurt. She worked tirelessly up and down the train helping passengers and liaising with the driver. “After about two hours, we watched a tractor bring the ladder which makes into a bridge between the two trains and by then there were dozens of rail, police and fire service people who helped passengers to walk easily and safely between the two trains.”