An Auckland man stuck for hours in a train to Eden Park says passengers pressed the emergency stop button after young girls started fainting from the heat in packed carriages.
Rail operator Veolia says multiple instances of emergency alarms being activated were among reasons for Friday's public transport meltdown.
But the Herald has been contacted by passengers saying alarms were set off only after crowded trains had been stationary on the tracks for up to two hours with inadequate air conditioning, causing some to faint with heat exhaustion.
Clint van Eyssen was one of the thousands of rugby fans travelling in trains which halted on the way to the Rugby World Cup opening ceremony and first match at Eden Park.
At least 2000 ticket holders missed the opening ceremony.
Mr van Eyssen is angry that transport officials blamed the delays on passengers pressing the emergency stop button, when this was done only because people desperately needed air on the already-stationary train.
The Pukekohe resident phoned Veolia in a bid to have the carriage doors opened because passengers were suffering in the heat. The train stopped for 30 minutes soon after leaving the Orakei station.
"There was no air circulation, no open windows and no air con," said Mr van Eyssen.
"It was really hot and people were showing signs of heat exhaustion,"
He said the woman he spoke to on the phone said the rail company could not send anyone to the scene.
"I said, 'We've got people suffering from heat exhaustion and there's kids crying'. The windows started to mist up because it was so hot."
He eventually told the operator that people would push the emergency button if somebody fainted. He was told not to do so.
"We had a young girl - about 10 to 13 years old who was with her dad - who fainted. The people on the train were fantastic; they were giving her water, putting it on her face.
"And then another girl fainted, so we pressed the emergency button to open the doors to get her off the train.
"People on the train carried her and the train operators came and were just angry, asking who pressed the emergency button. They didn't care."
When emergency buttons are pressed, train crews must find out which button on the train was pressed and assess whether there is an emergency. Brake systems must then be re-set.
At least two trains - and possibly three - were disabled by numerous alarms, eventually forcing Veolia to let passengers out.
It says it was able to bring two other trains alongside those that had been disabled, north and south of the Newmarket junction, to transfer passengers to them.
Others scrambled across train tracks to reach taxis and buses, stopping three loaded trains from leaving Britomart for safety reasons before the 7.30pm start of the opening ceremony.
Veolia was saying little yesterday about conditions on board its trains, but was finalising a report to send to Auckland Transport today.
Auckland Transport spokesman Wally Thomas said he believed pressing emergency buttons if people were fainting would "absolutely" be a legitimate use of the devices.
Veolia chief executive Graham Sibery said he was too busy for interviews yesterday, but told the Herald earlier that emergency systems on newer locomotive-hauled trains had been modified to make it easier for drivers to find activated buttons.
He said the task was difficult on older four-car diesel units, which had more than 30 buttons to inspect.
Rail services were also affected by several medical emergencies, including a suspected heart attack which led to the closure of a platform at Britomart for half an hour.
It had been standing room only on the trains from about 10am, and incidents of disorderly behaviour during the afternoon included children and others standing on train tracks and passengers trying to board a moving train.
Mr van Eyssen and the friend he was with eventually arrived in Queen St after being dropped off with other passengers at an emergency stop set up near Britomart.
They caught a taxi to Eden Park in time for the opening ceremony.
"There was no traffic at all and we got there very quickly," he said.
Transport Minister Steven Joyce will meet Auckland Council and transport officials today to review changes to public transport plans before Saturday's match between Australia and Ireland at Eden Park.