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ALMOST 350 commuters were left locked in crammed carriages for about three hours late yesterday after a Geelong-bound train broke down near Little River.
Engine failure on an outdated V/Line locomotive saw the 4.55pm service from Melbourne's Southern Cross Station to Marshall grind to a halt about 5.20pm.
The train's driver attempted to arrange engineers to fix the locomotive but his request was ignored, leading to an angry stand-off between passengers and onboard staff.
Tensions inside the carriages rose when passengers were told they were not allowed to leave the train left to stare into barren paddocks, surrounded by trainspotters and frustrated loved ones who had travelled to pick them up.
Passenger Adam Pearce said: "They locked us in and wouldn't let us out."
The mood soured further as several later services rushed past.
Finally at 8.10pm, a replacement engine began towing the train. Weary and angry commuters eventually arrived in Geelong about 8.50pm, almost four hours after their journey began.
"It was the train from hell and there was a lot of mis-information," said passenger Gavin Whyte.
"They kept telling us there was another locomotive coming and it would be here in a minute, yet they left us there for more than two hours and 40 minutes as we sat there and watched the other trains go past."
Several other Melbourne to Geelong services were also delayed as V/Line sought a back-up train to transport the stranded 4.55pm service passengers home.
V/Line spokesman James Kelly apologised to passengers.
However, Mr Kelly said the location of the break down made it too dangerous and difficult to escort passengers from the train and on to coaches or private transport.
"We know and understand that it's frustrating for people to be sitting on the train when it seems that nothing's happening, but in some situations it is hard to get people off the train," he said.
"It's an incredibly difficult area for us to get coaches to and also a dangerous place to get passengers off the train, so it was decided to keep the passengers on the train."
South Geelong and Marshall-bound passengers were shunted on to buses from Geelong station.
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