Power firm's pledge to improve services

By Dave GooderhamELECTRICITY company 24seven has promised to learn from the mistakes it made in handling the power supply crisis caused by the storms which struck in East Anglia last year.

By Dave Gooderham

ELECTRICITY company 24seven has promised to learn from the mistakes it made in handling the power supply crisis caused by the storms which struck in East Anglia last year.

The operator was met with heavy criticism for the length of time it took to reconnect the electricity supply after 515,000 homes lost power when 100mph gusts devastated the region in October.

But as part of a major improvement plan, 24seven has pledged to be better prepared for future severe weather and to greatly improve its call handling services.

In a letter to Richard Spring, the Conservative MP for West Suffolk, who had called for improvements, 24seven's managing director Alan Carey said it had carried out a wide-ranging investigation of its performance in the eastern region in response to the criticism.

The subsequent review identified 57 specific actions to implement and Mr Carey said: "We continue to learn from our experience and are working hard to improve our service."

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Ironically, the beleaguered company was given the chance to put its new procedures into practice when more freak weather hit the region earlier this year.

Mr Carey said: "Over half of the improvements are already in place and were rigorously tested by the snowstorm that hit the region in early February.

"It was clear from our performances under those circumstances that these measures had already paid dividends. Excellent progress is being made towards the implementation of the remaining actions and we plan to have the majority fully implemented by September.

One of the main criticisms leveled at 24seven after the October storms was that it could not cope with the significant increase in customers trying to get through to report faults.

But in the future, calls will overflow to a customers service call centre operated by London Electricity.

Mr Carey also announced plans to take part in a working group, set up by the Department of Trade and Industry, looking at longer-term issues raised after the storms.

The report into 24seven's performance, compiled by Colchester energy consultants British Power International, said the electricity network provider had failed to understand the scale of the storms and did not have sufficient contingency plans to deal with the problems.

It added almost 6,600 faults had been reported to 24seven, with the worst-served customer being without power for nine days.

A 24seven company spokesman admitted other power firms had been "quicker and smarter" in dealing with the aftermath of the storms, but stressed that East Anglia had been much harder hit than other regions.


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