Rescuers trying to save a man pinned under a train in Waikato are shocked the rail unit was attacked by a tagger and a thief while they worked.

The young man is fighting for his life after being trapped under the goods train in Ngaruawahia early yesterday morning.

During the rescue operation, one man broke into a carriage and stole several meat packs and a youth was caught tagging another carriage.

Police said the injured man underwent surgery at Waikato Hospital after he was struck by the freight train at the Ellery St crossing near State Highway 1 around 1am yesterday.

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Hamilton police said the driver saw something lying between the tracks and applied his emergency brakes, stopping 500m further along the track. He discovered the victim wedged beneath the carriages.

Emergency services freed the man who was in a serious condition. He is described as possibly European and aged between 20-30.