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Last Updated: Monday, 1 September, 2003, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
Power cut: What was your experience?
Commuters stuck at a closed underground station
A power cut caused rush hour misery for 250,000 people in London and the South East on Thursday evening.

It stopped about 1,800 trains and closed 60% of the Tube network.

A National Grid spokesman said its engineers were still trying to discover the cause of the problem.

What were your experiences of the incident? Were you able to capture the travel chaos on camera? Do you have a picture you would like to share with others?


The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

Your reaction:

More proof of the fundamental stupidity of mass commuting
Mark K, UK
Yet more proof of the fundamental stupidity of mass commuting. Most London office workers (especially civil servants) could easily work from home or offices near home. This would be massively beneficial both to their work/ life balance and the environment. Unfortunately we have dinosaurs, like Ken Livingstone and the government, who need to keep people piling into the city centre in order to justify 'jobs for life' for their mates in the public transport industry.
Mark K, UK

During my two hour walk home I had plenty of time to contemplate what this might mean. And it strikes me that we have two major "target" cities suffering similar "freak occurrences" in a two week period. Without being alarmist is anyone out there debating whether this could be a dry-run for some kind of outrage?
Tony, UK

I was in a bar at St Martin's Lane when an acquaintance, a manager at Transport for London, let me know that the tube system had ground to a halt and advised me to enjoy a longer evening in the West End, and that there was chaos on the streets as people sought a bus to get home. When I did go home at some point between 10.30pm and 11, Leicester Square tube station was in chaos and the chaos was added to by staff exaggerating the delays between tube trains.
Glenn Calderwood, UK

I hadn't anticipated having to sit in a tunnel on the Northern line for an hour and a half on my way home
Victoria, London
Well it was certainly a memorable birthday for me! I hadn't anticipated having to sit in a tunnel on the Northern line for an hour and a half on my way home, but we eventually reached life above ground at Waterloo with thousands of other people. Thanks to a kindly driver who took pity on two girls trying to hitchhike to 'Clapham please!' in the rain. I made it home just before 9pm in time for a delicious birthday dinner my very patient husband had cooked. Better late than never I suppose and at least I got home in one piece - it could have been worse!
Victoria, London

No problem. We were evacuated from the London Dungeon, crossed the river and then went into the first pub we found with power. The poor barman was so rushed off his feet that he forgot to charge us - free beer tastes so much better!
Garry, UK

Despite no trains and excessive rain, the spirits of everyone surprised me. Strangers arranged to share cabs with any one going in the same direction, and the lady stood next to me at the bus stop let me stand under her umbrella! It certainly made a change to the usual journey home, keeping our heads down, ignoring each other and fighting over the last available seat or copy of the Metro, which is typical tube experience.
Katie Nye, UK

Kissed her and asked her if she would marry me
Edward Brown, UK
Standing on the platform at Victoria with my secretary. The lights went off. We moved to the back of the platform. Kissed her and asked her if she would marry me. She said - yes.
Edward Brown, UK

What struck me as sad was, with hundreds of people stuck in the city, I didn't see any of the mostly empty cars helping anyone out.
Jon, England

It just makes me realise how great it is to be independent of public transport. I commute in and out of London by bicycle. I did feel a great sense of relief that I was not one of the drivers sitting in the five miles of traffic jams through south east London. Some of the junctions without lights flowed freely (much better than with lights) but some other areas just ground to a complete halt...
Phil Penhaligan, England

I think the whole thing was a stunt arranged by chippy northerners and smug cyclists.
Carl, London, UK

I seem to remember (in the halcyon days of LUL having its own power supply) that so little investment had gone into it that a similar situation (only affecting the tube, mind) occurred. Does anyone else remember this?
Mike, UK

I live on the 15th floor of an apartment block at Elephant & Castle, and the power cut hit about three seconds after I had got out of the lift! Rather lucky! But the only inconvenience to me was of having no cold water for the duration of it, due to there being no power to the building's pumps.
Tom Payne, UK

I live in an area where the power regularly goes off. Only a couple of weeks ago the power went off for over nine hours and again last week for four hours but we don't get mass press coverage or bleat on about how bad it is. In reality the power was off for less than an hour in London - big deal! I used to commute to London daily but I never will do again, you are the most miserable people on the planet. Stop moaning and get on with it. How would you cope if you lived somewhere where something bad really did happen? There is life outside of London, get over yourselves.
Vicki, UK

Not easy when you live 60 miles away
Dan, England
An absolute nightmare, we were simply told to find alternative ways home - not easy when you live 60 miles away. Luckily managed to get a coach back (if I'd left 10mins later no chance). National Express did a great job dealing with the sudden influx of irritable commuters (of which I was one) One question, did Connex not think of laying on some sort of bus/coach replacement?
Dan, England

I was extremely lucky and caught the 19:56 train from Victoria and missed the chaos by only half an hour. Friends of mine had a miserable three hour journey home in the driving rain. It does seem a bizarre coincidence that this blackout followed so quickly after the far more critical North American one. By the way, how come this forum has turned into 'let's bash the southern softies'? It was actually potentially a very dangerous situation for many people especially for those undergoing operations in hospitals while waiting for the generators to kick in. I wouldn't wish it on anyone - north or south or wherever.
Dermot, London, UK

As a retired national grid planning engineer I would like to point out to Mr Livingstone that he does not know what he is talking about. There is not a power system in the world that can withstand totally separate faults occurring on different parts of the network at the same time. This is especially true during the summer maintenance outage period. You could not engineer a system immune to separate faults - apart from being astronomically expensive there is no way National Grid would be allowed to erect a large number of additional circuits especially in the South East. How long did it take to secure permission to build the second Yorkshire line which was urgently required to secure electricity transfers from the North to the South? A two fault incident on this boundary would be likely to cause a much, much larger incident.
Graham Thompson, UK

I had just arrived at Euston with my wife and three kids, when they shut the tube. We looked in vain for a taxi but then decided to walk to the theatre in Drury Lane. It took us 40 minutes because my wife was still recovering from a stay in hospital. No empty taxis passed us along the way. We kept up with the traffic anyway! After the show we had to walk back again because there were no taxis available.
John, UK

I'm amazed by the over-reaction to the power cut in London
Chris Phillips, UK
I'm amazed by the over-reaction to the power cut in London. The problem was caused by two simultaneous faults on the grid. In common with virtually all similar systems the grid is designed to cope with one failure but not two simultaneous ones. To engineer the system to have any greater degree of resilience would require a huge amount of investment that would need to be funded by electricity users. Its very rare for the power to fail on this scale but it is inevitable that from time to time it will happen. If we really want this to happen less often then we will need to be prepared to pay the price. Is that what we really want?
Chris Phillips, UK

I was driving through the City when the lights went out. I have sympathy for those stuck on the trains but without the traffic lights it was the fastest drive home on record. No chaos, no jams - but nice clear roads. Is there a lesson here for road planners ?
Gareth Davies, UK

All those northerners laughing at the problems of our Londoners should just try and remember just how important London is to the country and how much its economy (especially the City) pumps into the whole country. It might be quite entertaining, but the media hype isn't just because the main media is London-centric - it's because it's far and away the most important part of the country.
Simon, UK

Reading these comments about being stuck on the tube due to a power failure reminds me of similar tube horror stories that I had to put up with in the past. Every time I see things like this about London - power cuts, congestion charges, two-hour journeys each working day, etc - just makes me all the more glad I made the decision to move to the Midlands two years ago. A 15 minute journey to and from work, nice clean air, lovely countryside on my doorstep and a beautiful 3-bed, 2 reception room house for the same price as a garden shed in SW17. Thank you for sharing your experiences, they have been most appreciated.
Kiltie, Staffordshire

All in all it took me 4 hours to get home
Mohammed, UK
I was travelling to Waterloo when my train stopped at Vauxhall station because of a signal failure. I got off thinking I could get the tube. Little did I know that the whole network had been shut down. I just started walking home. I got to Mile End in 2 hours before I got a lift home from a friend. All in all it took me 4 hours to get home.
Mohammed, UK

Much as I appreciate the stress and chaos this caused everybody, I find it ridiculous that a one-hour power cut has been labelled the "Great London Blackout". London has been through the World War, The Winter of Discontent in 78/79 and numerous terrorist bombs. The New York power cut was a 'Great Blackout', ours, in relation, was merely a 'Tripped Switch'!!!
Lee Cottington, London, England

He was stuck on the tube with the driver saying he couldn't get hold of supervisors and there was no signal
Tanja, UK
Buying some gum at the Sainsbury's at Paddington station probably saved me from being stuck in a tunnel for God knows how long. Tube staff had cordoned off the entrance to the tube and said that there had been a power cut, but they knew not much else. So I decided to head for the bus, managed to get into the first 36 that came along and went along fine, though more and more people tried to board the bus and were abusing the conductor. It got much worse once we got around Victoria and further south with more and more desperate people trying to get out of the rain and home. My boyfriend was not so lucky, he was stuck on the tube for one hour near Kennington, with the driver saying that he couldn't get a hold of any of his supervisors and there was no signal. This makes me wonder about safety issues as surely a driver should be able to get in touch with 'base station' at all times?
Tanja, UK

I thought it was handled as well as possible by LUL staff. I saw absolutely no panic, although people pushing and shoving for buses was a bit of a disappointment. And for those northerners with a chip on their shoulder...of course it got more coverage than it may have done elsewhere. London is the biggest city and capital of England!
Brendan Lee, London, UK

My experience of the "power cut" was of being on a Victoria line train between Finsbury Park and Highbury and Islington. The "power cut" was announced and we were delayed for a few minutes before continuing to Finsbury Park and then Seven Sisters. The train managed to move surprisingly well considering the "power cut". From my point of view if the train could get to Seven Sisters without stranding us in a tunnel then it could have got me home to Walthamstow. An extra hour was added to my journey for no reason. If 60% of the tube was affected why did 100% have to be closed. Why do LU make such a drama out of a crisis?
Kevin, UK

OK, I understand that for people stuck in lifts and tube stations in London yesterday the experience can't have been particularly good. However, this kind of power failure happens very rarely, in fact I understand that the last failure of this magnitude was in 1987, 16 years ago. The power was off for a couple of hours and there are claims of huge under investment, disgraceful that there is no back up etc. A few hours in 16 years isn't that bad is it? Power was out in the US for several days there and I think it is a credit to our national grid that power was restored so quickly.
Wayne Mitchell, UK

Up until recently the Tube had its own dedicated power station, making it totally independent from National Grid failure. Some 'bright spark' apparently realised it was possible to buy marginally cheaper directly from the Grid, so the power station was sold off and - surprise - converted into luxury flats...
Michael, UK

The lights may have gone out over London and tubes may have stopped running but those 250,000 who were stuck in the chaos remained calm and well behaved and showed in many ways the 'Blitz spirit' that got us through World War II.
Peter Atkinson, UK

The real news is that no one was hurt, power was restored very quickly, and people put themselves out to manage the situation
name here
I wasn't affected by the power cut but it seems to me that this is a typical case of over reaction by press, media and politicians who should know better. Yes, it was very inconvenient but the real news is that no one was hurt, power was resorted very quickly, emergency plans worked and people and organisations (e.g. the rail staff) put themselves out significantly to manage the situation. There is no such thing as a perfect system. All I can say is that I am glad Ken Livingstone is not in charge of the national grid or we would have had to pay a fiver each just to get the lights back on. I am fed up of the negativity with which news stories are portrayed just for dramatic effect. Get real everybody.
Dan Heany, UK

I am sure it was utterly miserable if you were caught on a train. Otherwise it was a good excuse to waste a few hours in the pub!
Alan, UK

A nightmare. A relative had to drive into town to collect me in the end. It was 10.30pm by this time. We are no longer in the Stone Age. Surely there is a backup system lined up for this sort of thing? Quite an eye opener if we had a terrorist attack - complete chaos, everything fails yet again. I think it just summed up this country very well - a failure!
Arabella, UK

Absolutely typical! I was travelling home via London Bridge Station after working late. By 10pm, the occasional train had started to come through but, guess what? Nobody had bothered to update the screens and their were no announcements, so nobody actually got on the few trains that were running as there was no way of telling where they were going. Incidentally, platform 7 seems to have disappeared. I spoke to at least ten people who couldn't find it, so there is clearly some kind of conspiracy going on here. If anyone knows where it has gone, could they please let me know.
Chris Pratley, United Kingdom

It was not as bad as I would have thought
Bruno, London
I must admit that it was not as bad as I would have thought. I got home quite quickly on the buses, for which I did not have to wait too long. The reality is that London does have a reasonable transport service, I just think our expectations just get higher over time. If you want it to work better, then pay more tax and invest in it, otherwise I don't really think we have cause for complaint. I think the people who really suffered were those that work outside London and had to try and use the over ground network to get home, not much fun I would imagine!!
Bruno, London, UK

I was driving through London and heard about the trouble on the radio. I couldn't help but think 'where' -- all the lights were on and it seemed a big fuss over nothing. Half hour shut-downs on the tube are, after all, nothing new.
Andy M, London, UK

My girlfriend and I were delayed outside Kings Cross, via the Metropolitan Line, for approximately 25 mins. Advised throughout by the driver what was occurring and the options that may arise and upon our exit from Kings Cross we were orderly evacuated. The only criticism is that whilst passengers were well behaved and jolly - the same cannot be said about LU staff who looked downright miserable and totally unapproachable! Customer Service is not a strong point with LU staff who tend to see passengers as problems, rather than customers!
David Fisher, Woodford, London

I was stuck in a tube train just before Brixton, and would like to commend LU staff for their professionalism and courtesy. We got water after we walked to safety and the staff were excellent. Nice change, keep it up.
Kerry, London, England

I'm amazed at the lack of speculation about possible terrorist action
Jon, UK
We have seen two unprecedented power failures in London & New York. I'm amazed at the lack of speculation about possible terrorist action just as I was amazed at the rapidity of George Bush's denial of this possibility far too quickly after the US power failure. When the 2nd plane hit the WTC, we all instantly knew it was the work of terrorists. How many unprecedented power failures do we need in the UK & US before we admit what is happening?
Jon, UK

Oddly, I wasn't even aware it had happened until my girlfriend txt me from Slovenia to ask whether we could still chat online last night. And I'm only 5 miles from Brixton! odd!
David Schulten,

60%, it was more like 100% closure and 110% staff inefficiency. It took us 3 hours to get home from Canary Wharf to Southfields.
Amy, London, UK

I was very impressed with LUL, there was no panic and we were all told to leave the train and walk up the escalators. The buses were crowded, but I did not have to wait long and again things went smoothly. My worst experience was at Victoria main line, where the customer information system was being used for nothing else other than advising me of the name of the station manager. No mention of the disruption. A little bit of information goes a long way.
Daniel Conway, London

If it had happened anywhere else in the country, the news coverage would have been much less
Tony Parkes, Midlands
Like most people north of London, we were bemused by the media hype concerning a power out in London. If it had happened anywhere else in the country, the news coverage would have been much less and the people involved would have "got on with it". To be perfectly honest, I was having a right laugh at the southern softy "crisis". Power (or lack of it) to the electric companies to keep us laughing elsewhere
Tony Parkes, Midlands, England

I can't help but wonder how it's such a coincidence that America /Canada has just experienced a wide-scale power-cut and now London has experienced a similar thing .... it's odd, and makes me wonder if someone is trying out some form of terrorist plan for the future. I just think these power cuts should be taken seriously and measures should be taken to prevent any such disasters occurring.
Jaz Sembhi, UK

While I was not affected by the power cut (living in North London), it just goes to show that even a relatively small power cut in a large city like London can cripple it.
Jano, UK

My experience was that of laughing while lounging in my front room up North after my 30 minute drive home from work. Who says it's grim up North. Looks as though it's grim down South to me..
John, UK


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SEE ALSO:
Demand for power cut answers
29 Aug 03  |  London
Power cut causes chaos
28 Aug 03  |  London
Huge wind turbines win approval
27 Aug 03  |  London


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