TRAFFIC chaos reigned in Linlithgow High Street during Monday evening’s ‘‘rush hour’’.
Cars, buses and lorries ground to a halt after a coach operated by E and M Horsburgh of Pumpherston caught fire.
The bus, which was empty apart from the driver - who was unhurt - ground to a halt near the Brae Court sheltered housing development around 5.15pm.
Eye-witnesses reported flames licking along the underside of the chassis before thick clouds of oily black smoke started belching out from under the vehicle.
Three fire engines - two from Bo’ness and one from Livingston - were quickly in attendance and soon had the the fire under control although the High Street was closed until around 7.45pm. Firefighters used foam and a hose reel jet to extinguish the blaze.
With no alternative route for larger vehicles, queuing traffic quickly backed up on both sides of the burning bus with car drivers forced to make U-turns and take another route through the town.
Bus services were disrupted and First Bus diverted some services, including the No 38 Edinburgh-Stirling, via Bo’ness and The Flints for a time.
Disruption to businesses in the vicinity was minimal.
Eric Horsburgh, a director of E. M. Horsburgh told the Journal and Gazette: ‘‘It appears to have been an electrical fault rather than a fuel fault which caused a small fire.
‘‘The driver reported to our engineers that he could smell smoke and they advised him to call out the fire brigade.
‘‘There were no passengers on board as the bus was heading back to the depot and no-one was injured.
‘‘Certainly there was a fair bit of smoke but it was a small fire.’’
A Central Scotland Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman said: ‘‘The alert was given at 5.12pm and two applicances were despatched from Bo’ness and were there within minutes.
‘‘They used a hose reel jet and foam to extinguish the fire. Our reports are that the bus was ‘well alight’ by the time the fire crews got there.’’
Inspector Liz Macleod of Linlithgow Police office said: ‘‘There is no suggestion of criminality but there was an issue with traffic congestion from around 5.15 until 7.45pm when the High Street was re-opened.’’