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Page last updated at 14:33 GMT, Sunday, 20 December 2009
The White Lion loses power and customers in the snow
The White Lion at Lower Ufford, Suffolk
The White Lion lost its electricity for just under two days

Suffolk's electricity supplier EDF Energy is being criticised for its information service following the power cuts in the December snow.

The White Lion in Lower Ufford had to cancel 70 dinner bookings after being without power for two days.

The landlady said you can only ever get recorded messages and no specific information from the energy firm.

On a general note, EDF Energy Networks has said staff worked through the night to restore power supplies.

"That was the most frustrating thing - that there was no access to human beings," said Gaynor Thurlow, landlady of the White Lion.

"Every phone number that we rang, even the emergency phone numbers, were just recorded messages saying 'we're fully aware you've got no electricity, and we're doing our best'."

The pub lost its electricity during the snow storms at 10pm on Thursday 17 December 2009 and it didn't come back on again until 9pm on Saturday 19 December.

Electricity sub-station, Lower Ufford, Suffolk
The electrical supply unit in Lower Ufford lives in somebody's front garden

The pub estimates it lost around 70 bookings for meals at the height of the Christmas party season. The landlady said the EDF engineers weren't working on their problem until Saturday afternoon.

"[EDF's standard recorded message] is absolutely fine," continued Gaynor. "But, if you're running a business, you need at least some idea.

"At least if we'd known that there was no-one trying to resolve the situation, then we wouldn't have kept trying to get through to find out what was happening.

"That no-one's coming to resolve your situation - that is information and we could have acted upon it.

"So they make a rod for their own backs and then they just end up with very angry customers.

"We were lent two generators from people who live in the village, but there's only so much a generator can do. It wouldn't have made any difference to the heating.

"It would still have been freezing cold in here."

Buying a generator

Icicles hanging from gables in Lower Ufford, Suffolk
Sean McMillan shows us the icicle collection at his front door

Two streets in Lower Ufford lost their electricity. Householder Sean McMillan was one of them and he eventually forked out £1000 on a generator:

"We have an electricity 'sub-station' on a couple of poles in the garden behind us and it blows up regularly - usually every year.

"It goes up quite spectacularly with sparks and fireworks and everything and, sure enough, on Thursday evening off it went.

"The thing that is so frustrating is that you can't get through to a human being. Finally they turned up 48 hours later and we were back on again.

"It must be costing them far more to come out and fix it in the middle of the night, than it would cost them to do it properly.

"We all know that bad weather causes problems, although quite why a relatively minor fall of snow in this country always causes absolute chaos - I think the Scandanavian countries must look at us and just laugh."

EDF working through the night

What's not in dispute is that the electricity company had its engineers out all weekend working to restore power to hundreds of homes across East Anglia.

Wood-burning stove in the White Lion, Ufford, Suffolk
The White Lion's Stephen Thurlow with the pub's wood-burning stove

With regards to the phone-line issue, EDF Energy's spokeswoman Tracy Sparling said: "When customers call our powercut helpline, the system recognises the first few digits of the number and works out where they are calling from.

"If we are already aware of a fault in that area the customer will get a recorded message giving the latest information we have on the incident.

"These recorded messages are the fastest way for us to answer calls and ensures that emergency lines are not clogged up with people calling to report the same incident.

"Throughout Friday and the weekend, we had additional call takers working from a number of centres and they were concentrating on dealing with urgent safety calls.

"Customers who phoned us were given the option to hold and speak to an advisor. However the extremely high level of calls due to weather-related problems, resulted in some customers having to wait for this service at times, for which we would like to apologise."

With regard to the cause of the problem, EDF said: "A fault developed on the overhead line and the cause is being investigated. If further work is necessary it will be carried out as soon as possible."




SEE ALSO
Electricity is restored to homes
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Hundreds without power overnight
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Suffolk: Snow information
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In pictures: Snow across Suffolk 2
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In pictures: Snow across Suffolk 1
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Heavy snowfall causes disruption
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