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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 30 October, 2002, 20:09 GMT
Inquiry into power cut misery
Collapsed wall
The storms caused widespread damage
The government has ordered an inquiry into how power companies have dealt with the aftermath of the weekend's storms that have seen thousands endure a third night without electricity.

The move comes as Manweb-Scottish Power announced it was refusing to offer compensation to customers who were cut off.

Energy minister Brian Wilson has called for an immediate review of how all of the companies coped with the storm damage, as high winds toppled trees and blew down lines.

Compensation questions
Consumers without power for 18 hours can claim 50
25 can be claimed for every subsequent 12 hours without power
Companies exempt if severe weather prevented them restoring power
Source: Energywatch
And industry watchdog Energywatch has criticised suppliers for their treatment of customers.

The government has said the worst affected customers should be paid a sum of about 50, but Manweb-Scottish Power said it is under no obligation to pay out as companies are not responsible for "acts of God".

The Electricity Association said about 31,500 homes were still without power as of 1000 GMT on Wednesday.

This broke down to about 17,000 without power in eastern England, 500 in the South East, 8,500 in the East Midlands, 3,500 in the rest of the Midlands and fewer than 2,000 in mid-Wales.

All other areas either have only small numbers without power or are back to normal.

House fire

Two people were taken to hospital in Ipswich following a house fire caused by candles used during a power cut.

The house in Sutton, near Holbrook, was severely damaged with the male occupant suffering burns.

Meanwhile, people in the Oxfordshire village of Wiggington are organising a mass claim for damages for the disruption caused by power cuts.

Rail disruption
Eurostar services not operating
GNER has one hour delays
Anglia Railways, c2c, Central Trains, Chiltern Railways, First Great Eastern, South West Trains among services where "delays likely"
Passengers advised to check before setting off
There is continuing disruption for rail travellers on both sides of the Channel.

Eurostar cancelled all services between London, Paris and Brussels for a second day on Wednesday, although pledged services would be running again first thing on Thursday.

French engineers worked all day to remove salt deposits blown onto overhead power lines between Calais and Lille, which caused the power supply to fail.

Despite Railtrack staff working through the night to get tracks cleared on the English side of the Channel, there are major delays throughout much of the UK.

Cancellations are still being caused by fallen overhead power lines and damaged signalling.

GNER, which runs trains between London and Edinburgh, is warning of one-hour delays, caused by a 50mph speed restriction over 100 miles of track between King's Cross and Grantham in Lincolnshire.

Slippery tracks

Thameslink has returned to an emergency timetable on services between Bedford, London and Brighton. There are no Thameslink trains running through the capital.

The company says tracks remain extremely slippery following Sunday's gales, and efforts to clean the rails have so far not worked.

Anglia Railways, First Great Eastern and South West Trains are all warning of disruption or delays.

Midland Mainline and Gatwick Express say they are operating revised timetables, while Virgin says it is expecting to run a normal service on the West Coast mainline between London and Glasgow, but says there is extensive disruption to Cross Country services.

Passengers are still being advised to check with their train operators before setting out.

What are your experiences of the storm? Have you been affected by the travel chaos?

Have your say

Kings Langley near Watford, all the houses except our group of 10 had a minimal power cut. As of 1300hrs Wednesday we still have no power. This has happened once already this year for nearly a day so the problem has to be in local circuits. Calls to 24/7 service centre were never logged. I can prove one as I got name of supervisor who said he would log it but when we rang again they did not know about our local problem. We were lied to and misinformed. The service was appalling.
David Flight, England


I still don't have power

Roger Worland, UK
I still don't have power (wed 13:00) and have no information to say when I will get some help. It is impossible to find out if you are "on a list" for help. Ringing the help lines is useless. You either get a recorded message or, if you are very lucky, somebody who tells you they can't give you any information on when your supply will be restored.
Roger Worland, UK

Congratulations to Midland Mainline. It only took three days commuting, including over 6 hours of delays, before I first heard any mention of an emergency timetable. At least they managed to keep the announcement boards working - showing the normal timetable! And it did wonders for my confidence in rail safety when last night's crammed two carriage train slid braking through, and well beyond, Luton Airport Parkway because 'the train was too heavy to stop'.
Anne, UK

Yesterday afternoon I was outraged to receive a telephone call at work from a representative from NPower. Having been without electricity at home for 34 hours, and during that time being subjected to countless impersonal "answer phone" messages, unable to speak to a real human being, were they ringing me to ask if everything was all right? What a joke! This was a sales call! Why is it that NPower has no staff to deal with genuine enquiries from hard-hit householders who have no light or heat, but yet have enough staff available to make sales calls?!!
Chris Long, U.K.

It is a sad fact that we are so dependent upon technology that a little wind and rain can cripple us. Thirty-five years ago, we sent a man to the moon. Currently we would be lucky to send him from Cardiff to London by train, and have him arrive there within one hour of the advertised time.
Paul, Wales


Our thoughts are with those though who have lost loved one

Alan, England
I have to agree with those who have said that rail companies show a complete lack of customer service. There is no communication whatsoever and a complete disregard for passengers. No wonder people take their cars to work. Our thoughts are with those though who have lost loved ones.
Alan, England

I am outraged that a set of warden controlled bungalows in the Panshanger area of Welwyn Garden City were left without electricity for over 36 hours with no help from anybody. These bungalows all house OAPs, and most of them are disabled, yet not one person checked on any of them to see if they were ok. These people were just left. Most of them had not had a hot drink or food for any of this period. Even their emergency pull cord system wasn't working.
Lesley Stone, U.K.

I spent 11 hours yesterday trying to get from Manchester to Salisbury by train. The highlight was one-and-a-half hours locked inside an overcrowded train at Birmingham with no information whatsoever. Passengers had to resort to holding up "HELP" messages at the windows to try and attract the attention of Virgin Trains staff who generally walked off and ignored them as they obviously didn't have a clue what was going on.
Anon

We were very fortunate since we were without power for only 11 hours. However isn't it time in the year 2002 that power cables were put underground to all towns and villages. Society is now so dependent on electricity that it is becoming dangerous to subject people to power cuts. Let's make a start now!
R D Oates, Flintshire, Wales


It is disgusting that the train companies cannot get their acts together

Peter Smithers
It is disgusting that the train companies cannot get their acts together. It is not the delays that have bothered me this week, so much the complete lack of communication and good customer service from the train companies.
Peter Smithers, UK

I work in Paris and was on a business trip to London this weekend. To my despair Eurostar was not running yesterday evening so I found myself spending the night stranded in Waterloo and arrived in the Paris office very late and missed a couple of important meetings. Surely transport companies should be prepared and come up with solutions for this kind of disruption.
Ben Cross, Paris

Everyone accepts that exceptional weather conditions will mean some disruption and delay. What I cannot understand is why the rail companies are always so inept in keeping the information flow going. Yesterday, at Leamington Spa, the 0812 to Newcastle was delayed by 95 minutes. In the two hours that I sat at the station there was one announcement concerning that delay. People will understand the problems much better if they are kept informed.
Peter, UK


I face a third night without lighting, heating or cooking

Robin Smith, Britain
My electricity went off 0630 on Sunday and I face a third night without lighting, heating or cooking. Yes, the storm was bad on Sunday, but the whole of my village of Kemble, Gloucestershire is still without power without any sign of any remedial work taking place. Utterly miserable!
Robin Smith, Britain

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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nicola Carslaw
"Some companies are refusing to pay out"
Jenny Kirkpatrick of the Electricity Association
"I'm assured everyone will be back on supply by Wednesday"
Adam Scorer of Energywatch
"Some of the electricity distribution companies are failing consumers twice"
See also:

29 Oct 02 | England
29 Oct 02 | UK
29 Oct 02 | UK
28 Oct 02 | England
28 Oct 02 | Business
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