Brighton and Hove Albion fans had a mad dash to get to the game on Saturday after a bus burst into flames.

Seagulls' supporters were forced to get taxis and trains after their coach caught on fire while travelling to the club's game against Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

The bus was supplied by Partridge Green-based firm Heritage Coaches, who were investigated by the traffic commissioner over separate matters in February.

It was the third fire on buses owned by several different companies run by the Stepe family this year.

The privately-hired bus was travelling to the American Express Community Stadium in Falmer from Haywards Heath in time for the 5.30pm kick-off against Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

It caught fire at about 4.10pm on the A275 in Lewes.

Last month, a bus supplied by another of the Stepe family's companies,, was consumed by flames on the A23 at Pyecombe.

In January this year, 55 youngsters aged nine and ten escaped from a dramatic blaze on board a Heritage double-decker as it travelled along the A29.

The next month, two subsidiaries of the firm, Round and About Ltd and Coach Hire Coaches Ltd, were given formal warnings after appearing at a public inquiry in Eastbourne.

The inquiry was launched after an unannounced spot check by Department of Transport investigators. It was revealed eight prohibition notices for mechanical defects were issued to the company's vehicles in five years, while one vehicle was not given a routine safety inspection on time.

One Albion fan on the bus, who did not wish to be named, said: “We were on the bus going to the Amex and the bus caught on fire.

“It was about an hour and 20 minutes before kick-off and we had been picked up in Haywards Heath and coming into Lewes at the prison roundabout.

“You could see smoke coming from the engine and everybody got off in time.

“It didn't go up very quickly which is lucky because it could have been a lot more serious and ended up in injury or even worse.”

A Lewes firefighter said: “We got called to a private bus going to the game full of supporters on the Offham Road because there was a small fire in the engine department.”

A Vehicle and Operator Services Agency spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the situation and we will assist the police if required.”

No one from Heritage Coaches was available to comment yesterday.