Fzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzt *poff*

Thursday, August 28th, 2003

Well that'll teach us Londoners not to be so smug about the American black-out…

As I write this, hundreds of commuters are still struggling to get home from work after a power failure knocked out the London Underground and seriously stressed the mainline rail services.

I got held late in a meeting, or I might well have been through and out the other side before it started. Alternatively, I might have been on the Waterloo and City line when the juice went off and all the trains stopped in the tunnels.

Instead, we got a couple of phone calls from colleagues who'd left earlier warning us what was going on, and I set out to walk to Waterloo. Earlier I'd been pleased to see the rain – we haven't had any for weeks – but by now I was uncomfortably aware that my shoes weren't waterproof. I now have black feet after the dye in them ran as I walked in the rain for the better part of an hour.

Waterloo was considerably less shambolic than usual, but that wasn't really all that impressive as there were two clear reasons for it – one, there were almost no trains running and two, hardly anyone had made it that far. I was dead lucky – a Reading train was called within a few minutes of my arriving, and so I got home at about 9pm. Meanwhile, back in central London, the buses were packed like sardine tins and you couldn't get a taxi for love nor money.

As power cuts go it wasn't in the US-Canadian league, although it did take out buildings as well as public transport. But it was a spectacular illustration of how it really doesn't take much at all to stop London in its tracks.

And this is a city they want to bring the Olympic Games to?

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I'm Andy Darley. Sometimes I want to say things. This is where I do it.