Massive blackout meant toll-free Thames crossing

Motorists were allowed a toll-free ride over a key river crossing today after a major power cut affected thousands of homes and businesses.

Charges were temporarily suspended on the Dartford Crossing after criminals caused fire damage to high-voltage electricity cables.

The Highways Agency decided to lift the barriers on the crossing this morning to keep traffic flowing smoothly and to reduce the risks of accidents in queuing traffic.

Collection of charges resumed tonight using an alternative power supply - but tens of thousands of homes in north Kent and south-east London were still without electricity.

It follows a fire in the Dartford area yesterday lunchtime which cut power to properties in Crayford, Bexleyheath, Erith and Orpington. Four major electricity circuits were badly damaged, as well as a cable bridge over Dartford Creek.

EDF Energy Networks said at its peak 100,000 customers were without power, but its engineers restored supplies to around 31,000 people and temporary supplies to more customers through rota connections.

Through the rota connections, EDF Energy Networks said it has restored power temporarily to customers in Crayford, Erith and Bexleyheath for three hours at a time before switching supply to another area.

Generators have also been deployed to the most vulnerable people and the Red Cross have visited a number of people to offer advice and support, EDF Energy Networks said in a statement.

Extra call centre staff have also been drafted into provide information and advice, the French-owned company added.

EDF Energy Networks said: "Our priority is restoring power to all our customers as quickly as is safely possible, and we continue to work on a full restoration of power supplies.

"Because of the complexity of the repairs, it is hard to be completely accurate but EDF Energy Networks hopes that power will be restored to remaining customers, not already back on supply either permanently or temporarily, during the course of tomorrow evening."

Kent Police said tonight that it has launched an investigation into the cause of the fire but it is unclear whether it was criminal damage or an attempted theft of high voltage cables.

Chief Inspector Peter Ayling said: "We are working closely with Kent Fire and Rescue Service fire investigators and other partners to minimise the risk and disruption to the community.

"However, extensive fire damage has been caused to a cable tower which in turn has impacted heavily on both local businesses and residents.

"We have committed significant resources to investigate the cause of the incident and inquiries are ongoing. It unclear at this stage whether this was criminal damage to or attempted theft of high voltage cable.

"Along with our partners, we are working to reassure the local community and provide assistance to those who are vulnerable."

A Dartford Borough Council spokesman said: "We have put in place measures to ensure that the more vulnerable members of the community have been cared for throughout."

A Kent Primary Care Trust spokesman said people with concerns about their health should contact their local health services as normal.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

    £15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence