Inner West Independent

Powerless in the Inner West

Photograph caption: The Soul Bowl café in Leichhardt. Photo: Lanie Tindale

By Lanie Tindale

Local businesses in the Inner West have suffered from a power outage which hit the area last Saturday at 1pm.

The Soul Bowl cafe manager Kiran Gire said when Marketplace Leichhardt lost power “Nothing was working in the shop, it just went completely dark…There [were] a lot of people coming out of the shopping centre, so they just asked to sit down with their shopping.

“I couldn’t serve anything, so I served them with water.”

Christine Kelly, who owns The Pharmacy on Marion Street in Leichhardt, finishes trading on a Saturday at 1pm.

Ms Kelly said that if the pharmacy had been open “We would have had no ability to trade at all because we would have had no power…So there would’ve been no computers, no printers, no EFTPOS terminals.

“There was no lighting, so there was no way we could have gone out the back safely to restock either, so that would’ve been really quite inconvenient for us.”

The blackout impacted 40,000 homes and businesses in the Inner West, including the suburbs of Croydon, Ashfield, Leichhardt, Summer Hill, Lewisham, Petersham and Five Dock.

There were also blackouts in other parts of Sydney, including Homebush.

Ausgrid said power cut to 15,400 residents and businesses in Croydon, Ashfield and Five Dock was restored after 2pm.

23,000 other customers in the Inner West and around Homebush had to wait for their power to be restored until around 3pm.

The Soul Bowl cafe lost business during the two hours the power was out.

“There were a few customers that had their meal already and had to pay, but luckily I had wireless, so they could pay because the ATM wasn’t working,” said Mr Gire.

“The other customers were just sitting, [waiting] to make their order, but they couldn’t.”

Yucheng Yin, who was trading at petrol station Metro Petroleum at the time of the blackout said he had to turn away customers, telling them “Sorry, no power”.

However, a Vinnies volunteer said that the St Vincent de Paul shop has a receipt book, meaning people with cash were still able to make purchases.

“We try and keep trading where possible and just [rode] the blackout out” they said.

Up to 100 sets of traffic lights were inoperable.

Mr Gire said that some of the customers in his cafe “were a bit scared” because the traffic lights at the intersection near Marketplace Leichhardt were not working.

Ms Kelly called the police.

“It’s never happened before, so it’s a bit of a shock. We actually called the police because there was a lot of traffic issues …The traffic was banked up,” she said.

“No-one knew where they were turning, who was going where…I was surprised [the police] didn’t come earlier [but] they probably had bigger things to deal with than our little intersection.”

Ms Kelly continued “I think any situation where traffic lights don’t work is dangerous, because people aren’t sure who’s in the right.

“Luckily people here in Leichhardt are sensible.”

A spokesperson from Ausgrid said in a statement “The outages were caused due to an unplanned outage of the main transmission inter-connector between Dumaresq in NSW and Bulli Creek in QLD, which caused wide spread system issues across eastern Australia affecting some of our customers”.

Dr Jiangfeng Zhang from the UTS School of Electrical and Data Engineering said

“It is usually impossible to prevent outages, but we can try to minimise this happening through regular maintenance to prevent equipment failures.

“For weather caused power outages, it is usually scarce in the Sydney area since the weather is usually mild.

“Constructing more underground power distribution lines at areas with dense populations is typically advised to reduce risk of weather related power outage.”

Dr Zhang explained that while underground lines are safer, the construction cost of overhead lines are much cheaper than underground.

He said that in many UK cities underground lines are “Quite popular…since they have much more chance of a storm than Australia”.

The power outage had a knock-on effect on broader Sydney due to public transport stoppages.

The light rail was prevented from running, and buses and trains were delayed.

Commuters were stranded at Redfern Station as a signal failure caused delays to the T8 Airport and South line, the T1 Western line and the T2 Inner West line.

Frustrated residents took to Twitter to complain.

“@Ausgrid the ability to register outage online from mobile is not easy to discover, nor the phone number to call when you give up trying : ( #outage #blackout #leichhardt,” tweeted @joelmcourtney.

Twitter user @lansj posted “#blackout #sydney can only have been caused by NSW’s reliance on coal.”

Ausgrid said in a statement to City Hub: “Residents can find updates at any time of the day by entering their suburb into our outage map which can be found at ausgrid.com.au/poweroutages.

We also post all major outages on our social media channels via Twitter and Facebook. People can follow @Ausgrid for any updates.”

Transgrid did not reply to a request for comment.

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