Major blackout plays havok with U.K. trains, traffic

A power cut disrupted train travel and snarled rush-hour traffic across large chunks of Britain, including London, on Friday afternoon.

Power supplier National Grid said two generators failed at the same time around 5 p.m. local time in an “unexpected and unusual event,” but that the system was back to normal about 90 minutes later. It was unclear why the generators failed.

Electricity companies across the country said hundreds of thousands of customers were affected by the cut, including London’s King’s Cross station, which is one of the main hubs for northbound trains.

Power failures were reported as far apart as London in southeast England and Cheshire in the northwest. Many people reported that the outage lasted just a few minutes, but the impact on travelers was severe.

Transit operator Transport for London said some traffic lights in the city had been knocked out, and advised drivers to be careful.

National Rail Enquiries, which is run by Britain’s train companies, said “power supply problems” caused “disruption to a large number of train services.”

Rail services across the country were cancelled or delayed during the Friday evening rush hour, and commuter trains powered by overhead wires ground to a halt mid-journey.

London North Eastern Railway said all services were suspended in and out of King’s Cross, one of London’s busiest stations. It tweeted: “Customer advice is DO NOT TRAVEL.”

“Outside King’s Cross Station is absolute mayhem. Nobody knows anything nobody can find an assistant to speak to at this point,” frustrated traveler Zoe Hebblethwaite said.

The power failure came as heavy rainstorms drenched the London area, causing flooding at Luton Airport, around 47 kilometres north of the capital.

The airport said in a statement that the “unprecedented rainfall” had caused “water damage in a number of locations in the terminal” and apologized for the disruption.

Passengers wait for news during travel disruption on the East Coast mainline at Peterborough Station. U.K. Power Networks, which owns and maintains electricity cables in London and southern England, said a network failure at power supplier National Grid was affecting its customers. (Martin Keene/PA via AP)

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