PASSENGERS on a burning Megabus coach were trapped when an emergency exit failed, it has been claimed.

The Megabus service from Portsmouth to Newcastle went up in flames on the M62 near Huddersfield on Friday.

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One passenger has claimed there was a panic when people could not get out of the rear exit.

But Megabus yesterday told The Examiner that passengers were ordered to leave via the front for safety reasons.

Newcastle resident David Binks says passengers had to use the front door after a woman near the emergency exit at the rear could not get it open.

He said moments after they cleared the coach it burst into flames.

It is not clear if the door failed, was deliberately locked or the passenger could not operate it.

Mr Binks, who was sitting in the middle of the coach, near where the fire began, said: "People were dithering at the front getting their stuff from the overhead lockers. It was mayhem and I shouted at them to get off.

"The driver may have said to get off at the front but there was thick black smoke in the middle of the coach so people were instinctively trying to escape. A woman tried to open the rear door but she couldnt get it open.

"Fire exits should be idiot proof you should never have a problem opening it."

Mr Binks, 51, who was travelling home with his wife Karen, said a strong smell of burning had been noticeable shortly after they left Manchester.

He said: "We were behind an artic (lorry) for quite a while and I thought it was coming from him. But after we got past him the smell got worse and worse.

"I got up and went to tell the driver there was something wrong and he should pull the coach over.

"At the same time as I was saying that a driver got parallel with his window and shouted in, 'You're on fire'.

"By the time I'd got back to my seat there was black smoke coming through between the seats.

"I shouted the driver to stop the coach right now, we're on fire. People were trying to operate the fire door at the back but they couldn't get it open. The fire took hold very quickly.

"Within a matter of minutes of getting everybody off it was away."

Mr Binks said he couldnt believe that traffic continued to pass the burning bus.

"I thought I was just going to hear a bang - the smoke was black," he said. "You couldn't see through it I thought it was going to be absolute carnage.

"I was furious - the traffic should have been stopped sooner.

"It was pretty scary."

A spokeswoman for said: "Passengers were advised by the driver to leave the vehicle via the front door for safety reasons.

"Using the rear emergency exit would have put passengers into the flow of oncoming traffic."

Mr Binks said the driver had attempted to get some of the luggage off the burning coach, but most went up in flames, including his own suitcase.

He criticised the reaction of the company to the 47-strong group of passengers who were left stranded on the hard shoulder and then taken to Hartshead Moor services.

He added: "There was no head count, which I thought was strange.

"There was very little passenger information - the driver didnt come into the services to talk to us. People were trying to phone Megabus direct.

"A lot of people were quite shocked. One guy was going off his rocker because he had lost all his possessions, including his money."

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