MP calls for investigation into the blackout
PUBLISHED: 16:57 31 July 2009 | UPDATED: 17:00 25 August 2010
AN MP is demanding an investigation at the highest level into the handling of a power blackout that saw nearly 100,000 people without electricity for up to three days. David Evennett, MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford, has written to Secretary of State fo
AN MP is demanding an investigation at the highest level into the handling of a power blackout that saw nearly 100,000 people without electricity for up to three days.
David Evennett, MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford, has written to Secretary of State for Business, Lord Mandelson and chiefs at energy regulator Ofgem over EDF Energy's response to the blackout in Dartford and Bexley boroughs last week.
Vital cables on a bridge are believed to have been targeted by saboteurs, causing the power supply to collapse without warning.
Bosses from EDF braved the wrath of residents at a public meeting at St Martin's Church, Barnehurst, last Wednesday (July 29), who slammed the company's handling of the incident.
Ofgem has ruled the incident as "exceptional circumstances," limiting EDF's responsibility for compensation, which has instead offered some customers a £50 "goodwill gesture".
Mr Evennett said: "I'm very concerned about what is classed as exceptional. People are out of pocket to the tune of hundreds of pounds. The payments issue needs serious consideration.
"Patently the security at this site was not sufficient and I want an urgent review of security to ensure vital parts of the power network are protected.
"There are many unanswered questions and we are determined to find those answers."
The true scale of the power cut emerged as angry residents told the panel about elderly relatives stuck in tower blocks with no running water and rotting food in fridges.
Natalie Shaw, 31, of Lincoln Road, Slade Green said: "We felt like the lights had been turned off and nobody cared about us.
"There was no information about how serious the situation was so we didn't know how long there would be no power.
"My great-uncle is 87, he had no water because the water pump to his flat had no power. He had no matches, no candles. The Red Cross gave him four bottles of water and a pint of milk.
"He was thankful just for some hot water when I got to him. This shouldn't happen, he should not have to put up with that."
EDF Director of Operations Bob Lane said it could not guarantee power 365 days a year and revealed that saboteurs broke padlocks to the Dartford site with "hammers and chisels."
James Cleverly, London Assembly member for Bexley and Bromley, said it was unacceptable for nearly 100,000 people to be "held to ransom" by a single act of vandalism.
He said: "It's unacceptable with the threat of terrorism that so many residents and businesses are reliant on one pinch point in the network.
"EDF measures its profits in billions of pounds. I want to see greater reliability and two-stream back up built into the network."
Mr Lane said it was not feasible to have a dual network in place and that it would be impossible to fully protect over 140,000 miles of electric cables.
Slade Green residents were among the last to receive continuous power, many received three hour boosts during the middle of the night, described by Mr Cleverly as a "rather smart way of making sure there was not a continuous break of 24 hours."
Only those who did not receive power for 24 hours would be eligible for a £50 gesture.
EDF used over 90 mobile generators and they said power was allocated on information they had about more vulnerable customers.
Customer relations manager Mary Preece urged vulnerable residents to notify them so they can be put on a priority list should another blackout happen.