When a budget intercity bus burst into flames near Chicago, a New York Times travel writer just happened to be on the scene.

Lucas Peterson, also known as the Frugal Traveller, was travelling on the Megabus service from Chicago to Milwaukee today, when what seemed like a minor inconvenience occurred.

After an hour into the trip, the bus had to turn around in order to "switch buses", he tweeted.

Soon afterwards, Peterson tweeted an update - the bus was on fire - quickly followed by another update to say the bus had exploded.


"We left Chicago, immediately there seemed to be something wrong because we stopped on shoulder of highway couple times, driver got out," he wrote.

"Then driver said we have to turn around and go back to Chicago to switch buses. About five minutes later tire blows and we pull over on highway 41.

"Driver says it's just a flat tire, that there's no need to panic, and goes outside. Minutes later smoke starts pouring out of the bus."

When someone on the top deck of the bus decided it was a good idea to leave the vehicle, others followed suit and attempted to get their luggage.

"Small fire over wheel becomes big; people abandon luggage and get away. Entire thing goes up in flames, series of loud booms," he tweeted.

Passengers were left standing by the highway and were told by police that another Megabus would be coming to pick them up.

No one was injured in the incident.

Peterson talked to some of the passengers on board, many of whom had lost valuable possessions in the incident.

One man had been using the bus to move permanently to Milwaukee and told Peterson he had lost most of his possessions, including his social security and credit cards and his birth certificate.

When passengers checked Megabus' terms and conditions online, they suffered another blow, discovering that the company limited liability to $250.

A woman on the bus estimated she had lost $1700 worth of possessions.

Eventually - about five hours later to be precise - the passengers arrived in Milwaukee on the alternate bus.

Megabus is a cheap intercity bus service operating in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.

• Follow the Frugal Traveller on Twitter

- nzherald.co.nz