Lightning causes London commuter chaos
Always crowded and hectic, Thursday evening’s rush hour in London was more of a hassle following a lightning strike that caused extensive signal problems in the area. At around 5:30pm, just as the bulk of commuters were leaving work, lightning struck an electrical substation in the Wandsworth area, starting a fire and causing substantial damage which led to a power failure and severe signalling problems.
Wandsworth is close to Britain’s busiest railway station, Clapham Junction, and the route for most trains travelling south out of the capital from Victoria and Waterloo, so any problems were going to have severe repercussions.
Victoria Station was affected the most with all services being cancelled, whilst South West Train’s services to and from Waterloo were severely delayed. Short notice alterations and vague announcements led to a chaotic atmosphere in the two London terminals, as well as at stations down the line. Given little specific information, tired commuters were left feeling increasingly frustrated. Some commuters found themselves stranded for up to four hours on train journeys that would usually take only 25 minutes.
Southeastern trains suffered the brunt of the signal failure trouble, with passengers for these services eventually transported on a variety of alternate routes to Sussex and Kent. Commuters on South West Trains found themselves waiting for up to 40 minutes and Southern Railway was also affected between Battersea Park and London Bridge.
Trains were delayed late into the night as Network Rail attempted to fix the affected signalling equipment. The damage is extensive enough that, although the problem is reported to have been fixed, delays and service alterations may continue into today, potentially affecting Friday’s train services.