A BURNING coach slowed traffic to a crawl on the M53 motorway between junctions three and four northbound last night.

A 63-year-old man, believed to be the driver, was checked by paramedics after fire broke out as it travelled along the hardshoulder at around 7pm.

An eyewitness recalled seeing the coach well-alight as firefighters tried to quell the blaze as smoke billowed into the air.

Part of the rear of the vehicle was severely damaged. There were no reports of any injuries.

The carriageway was partially blocked for more than an hour while the debris was cleared.

Lanes two and three were open to slow-moving traffic.

An investigation is now underway to establish how the fire started.

The eyewitness told the Globe: "I was on my way home from Manchester when a fire engine with blue lights flashing came roaring up behind me on the M53, just after the A41 turn off.

"It sped off northbound in front of me and was soon out of sight, but then there was suddenly a bank of red brake lights where all the traffic had slowed down to a crawl on the carriageway.

"I could see a huge plume of smoke billowing up from a blazing fire on the hard shoulder up ahead.

"The flames were that big I was worried it might have been a multi-vehicle pile-up, but when the traffic began to move again I saw the bus that was well alight, with the firefighters trying to quell the blaze.

"I was lucky - a friend coming in the same direction half an hour later told me he had to leave the motorway at the Clatterbridge junction. I just hope no one was hurt."

Crews from Bromborough and Heswall fire stations attended, leaving the scene just after 7.40pm.