Sixth-formers from The Arnewood School in New Milton found themselves at the centre of a dramatic crisis after becoming involved in an emergency training exercise.

The exercise followed the aftermath of a horror crash at New Milton railway station involving a de-railed freight train and a passenger train from Bournemouth.

It saw the students take on the roles of emergency service personnel, injured passengers and the media.

Called ‘Freight-Fright,’ this one-off exercise was led by retired crisis incident expert Mal Phillips.

He was able to create a realistic scenario thanks to the involvement of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, British Transport Police, Winchester-based science centre Intech, the hazardous material team from Hampshire Police, the emergency response team at Hampshire County Council and Southampton General Hospital.

Mal, who developed BP’s first Emergency Response Centre in Aberdeen just before the Piper Alpha incident in 1988, said: “Emergency training provides many educational benefits for students.

“There was science as they learned about the properties of the hazardous materials caused by the fuel spillage of the crash and drama, communication and decision-making all played key parts during the exercise.”

The sixth-form area of the school resembled a scene from a horror movie as students doused in fake blood lay ‘injured’ in and around the classrooms.

A fire engine from New Milton station with flashing blue lights and camera crews scrambling for the best shots all helped to create a heightened atmosphere for the exercise.

Even Hampshire County Council’s emergency response team and Southampton General Hospital got in on the act.

The students made regular phone calls to update them on critical numbers. And Sarah Newman from Intech at Winchester stepped in to play the part of Home Secretary Theresa May to demonstrate the national importance of such an incident.

Head teacher of The Arnewood School, Chris Hummerstone said: “This was a fantastic experience for all of our sixth-form students who I know got so much from the day.

“I’d like to say a huge thank you to all the emergency service people who were able to combine their regular training with his special exercise. All of us now have a greater understanding and insight into what happens when there is a major incident and the fantastic work our emergency services provide.”