AN inquiry has been launched by the government after widespread power cuts brought many trains to a stand, particularly in the London area. Tyne & Wear Metro was also disrupted by the widespread outages, on Friday afternoon.
The problems were caused by the failure of two generators according to National Grid, which has promised to ‘learn the lessons’ of an ‘incredibly rare event’.
Business secretary Andrea Leadsom is asking the Energy and Emergencies Executive Committee to carry out the inquiry, which will examine whether National Grid's procedures are ‘fit for purpose’. An urgent, detailed report has also been demanded by the regulator Ofgem. A cyber-attack has already been ruled out.
Thameslink and Great Northern were among the lines on which trains came to a stand, and there are further questions after it emerged that Siemens-built Class 700 and Class 717 sets could not be restarted without the attention of a fitter, because computer systems could not be rebooted by the driver after a failure of the 25kV traction current. Some passengers left their trains and walked down the line as the delays lengthened. Govia Thameslink Railway said it is investigating. LNER was also badly affected, and London King’s Cross was evacuated. Other major stations left in darkness included Clapham Junction.
The failures started at about 17.00, and affected most regions of England and Wales. A gas-fired power station at Little Barford in Bedfordshire failed at 16:58, followed two minutes later by the Hornsea offshore wind farm. After both generators had ceased to supply the grid, automatic equipment began disconnecting various areas in order to reduce the load on the network, preventing damage to transmission systems.
TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: ‘We urgently need answers from the Government over this fiasco. Having our rail network brought to a standstill in this way is totally unacceptable. We’ve seen thousands of passengers stranded, unable to board trains and a number of cancellations. Others have been taken off trains and on to the tracks. We need to know why this occurred and the lessons to be learned.’