back to article Flood, fire at BT Paddington node causes widespread problems

A fire at a BT building in central London is causing widespread landline, internet and mobile network problems, according to reports. A blaze at Burne House in North Paddington was reported this morning. According to Gradwell, a business ISP, 437 local exchanges and up to 37,500 Datastream circuits have been affected. It said …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Birmingham down as well

    Had problems with DSL in Birmingham from midnight, BT are trying to resolve but have had to divert resources to Paddington to sort the problem there. This from my ISP Entanet

  2. Greg D

    the day the phones died

    I was gonna write in as nothing was reported for a while - this is majorly affecting us - cant make any outgoing calls and the mobile phone network is on it's knees at the moment.

  3. Volvic

    Easynet are affected too

    Easynet are reporting their Paddington, North Paddington and Marylebone exchanges down due to 'flooding'. A little overexuberance on the part of the fire brigade?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      No, A little overexuberance on the part of H&S act

      Two factors at work here.

      1. Nobody wants to risk halon, co2 or other methods of fire suppression which take out the fire by smothering it. The UK H&S act pretty much took care of that. If someone dies, you are guilty by default regardless of how much measures did you put in to prevent this. This is rather silly as the person can die in fire or from electrical shock once the water goes in same way as from Halon or Co2. In fact if there are cabinets with masks at every X meters in any direction Halon or CO2 are inherently safer than water. That however is impossible to explain to the idiots from Connect and other union w*nkers. So end of the day you put sprinklers in knowing that any equipment on that floor unaffected by fire will be destroyed by water. This happens on casual basis in all providers - BT has had it before, IIRC Level3 has had it, either Globix or Global Lossing had it as well.

      2. The power distribution architecture in nearly all colocation facilities in the UK does not have per-rack cut-off. You do not really need to turn on sprinklers if you have per rack cut off for electricity and cooling so you can stop electricity as well as pumping fresh air to the rack in question and X neighbouring racks for 5-10 minutes before you push the big red button. It is not that difficult to plan, build and even retrofit a datacenter so you can take down completely sections from it. Considering that a rack of telecoms equipment can easily cost north of half a million pounds the common ineptitude in power and cooling design by UK telecoms operators is outright criminal. Though once again some of that can be blamed on H&S and the way it has been exploited by unions under Nu LieBore.

      1. Anonymous Hero

        re: No, A little overexuberance on the part of H&S act

        Actually, many data centre facilities use a high fog mist system to suppress fire which is entirely different from "sprinklers". It's also a hell of a lot safer than halon or co2 based suppression methods.

        Methinks you've never actually worked in a data centre from the nonsense you've just spouted, I in fact have.

  4. daniel 3 Silver badge

    internet redundancy

    I thought that the interwebs were supposed to be robust enough to suffer nuclear destruction of some of it's connection nodes....

    If one fire in one exchange was enough to bring down the national communication infrastructure, maybe the USSR should have invested in napalm rather than nukes...

    1. Greg J Preece

      Well you're still talking, no?

      Part of the network is bollocksed and you're still posting...

      Or are you one of those Londoners who thinks the world ends at the M25, and the "national communication infrastructure" is 20 miles across?

      No problems here in Leeds.

      1. SteveMilner

        Inderect Effects


        Try using your credit card online then.


      2. Les Matthew

        Re: Well you're still talking, no?

        "Or are you one of those Londoners who thinks the world ends at the M25, and the "national communication infrastructure" is 20 miles across?"

        I'm shocked, shocked I tell you. Always thought it ended at the north circular.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          That far?

          If it's outside the Circle Line it's foreign.

          1. Number6

            Open-loop and leaky

            Have you not seen that the Circle line is no longer just a simple loop?


        2. Number6


          You're confusing "end of the world" with "edge of civilisation".

      3. Laurie

        "No problems here in Leeds"

        It ain't the Paddington node that's burning - it's your pants!

        ; P

    2. The Other Steve


      "I thought that the interwebs were supposed to be robust enough to suffer nuclear destruction of some of it's connection nodes..."

      Then you thought wrong. HTH

    3. Annihilator

      re: internet redundancy

      As has been pointed out, you'll find the interwebs are running just fine thanks. If you put an axe through your router at home, you'll find much the same effect.

      The idea of the nuclear defended network is so that the rest of the world (well, US) could still talk even if, say, Washington DC was suddenly replaced by a crater. Bear in mind also that the Internet is not a singular entity. A better description is a network of networks. One of the subnetworks is out - that's all.

      If you think this is bad, consider what would happen if Telehouse Docklands were to disappear. Fortunately the more important a node, the more redunancy built in.

      1. Frank 6

        you are badly misinformed

        Your theory is far from practice. Replace london with a crater and then come tell me if the rest of the UK will be able to access anything. The chances are, all the peripheral nodes will go down as well just from the lack of routing paths. Yes, you will find that many times your packets take some pretty long routes in order to reach their destination and those routes usually go through some main exchange points.


    Any word on casualties?

    Hoping for good news, did the BT staff get out safely?

  6. Ed Blackshaw

    It probably tells us quite a lot about BT's infrastructure

    If data for other parts of the country are being routed via central London, but they can't be more specific about whom or where. I'm just glad I'm no longer a customer of theirs, for so many reasons. This is despite the monthly 'Come Back to BT!' junk mail I seem to receive. Sometimes I don't know how I summon the willpower to overcome its hypnotic effect...

  7. Bilgepipe


    Lucky they have redundancy built-in in case of things like this. What's that? People all over the country affected? Oh....

    1. Brian 6


      "What's that? People all over the country affected? Oh...." No they are not, thats WHY we can ALL talk aout this online...

  8. edesignuk


    I wondered why I had no 3G signal on my phone (vodafone).

  9. Tom Chiverton 1

    More details, incl. area codes

  10. Ol'Peculier

    Do they never learn?

    There was a fire in the Scarborough exchange in the 1990's, caused complete havoc for everybody. Turned out to be the sprinkler system was fault.

    Wonder what this one will be?

  11. Anonymous Coward

    why would anybody...

    ... put anything fire sensitive in Burne House?

    This was inevitable, if you ask me.

  12. Penguin

    Nice Redundancy BT!

    Wow, I know this is a major exchange but surely this is the reason this kind of thing is planned for. I wouldn't mind but we were running a DR scenario today that has been pulled due to this, irony indeed.

    We've lost one satellite office and it is still chunking up our network nicely - If anyone is interested BT have informed us that they should have a solution in place by 16:15 - Although by the sounds of this article I am beginning to doubt it.

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Not again

    How long since that fire in Manchester took out most of the traffic to the US?

    What is it with BT? Arsonists, smoking *inside* the building, soldering with blow torches?

    No flame but really not a good show at all.

  14. PowerSurge


    SagePay not working this morning. Their website says problems due to external provider. putting 2 and 2 together...

  15. Technoroom

    No landlines or broadband in Hyde Park

    Yup it's true - Hyde Park is devoid of landlines or broadband and business has drawn to a standstill. Mates in West London offline too!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No landlines or broadband in Hyde Park

      So it's like a park then?

  16. Elmer Phud


    That's one fuck of a big exchange, lots of major routing through there - sort of line of sight up the Edgeware Road towards Birmingham.

    One would assume that there are traffic jams as the rest of the system tries to re-route it all - think of the M25 being suddenly closed around Dartford Crossing on a bank holiday.

    Not sure that redundancy would help in this case as it sounds like it's not just one or two major links that have gone.

    ( there are times when I almost wish I was back there - a few key presses and clicks and I'd know what was out)

  17. Dennis

    Re: Redundancy

    "Lucky they have reduncancy built-in"

    Of course they have redundancy .... or has BT stopped handing out P45s ?

  18. Anonymous Coward

    SAGE PAY Down Again!

    Seems that this is affecting Llyods cardnet customers via Sagepay

    Would never have happened under protx! (thats a Joke)

  19. SteveMilner


    This, according to SagePay website:

    31 March 2010 12:02:45 - Please be advised Lloyds Cardnet and Halifax Bank of Scotland customers are currently unable to process transactions via the Sage Pay gateway.

    This is due to a BT communications network failure, and not an issue on the processing platforms.

    We are currently awaiting an update from the respective parties.

  20. Warmfusion

    PayPoint Still Works thou

    SagePay might be broken, but is still working, albeit at a slightly reduced capacity. Talking with support it seems their backup connections are taking the load pretty well.

  21. SteveMilner

    More Inderect Effects

    Expect other card services to be impacted.

    This from a SagePay communication email:


    We'd like to update you on an external issue which is effecting nationwide telecomms/datacomms.

    British Telecom has confirmed a fire at their Exchange in the Paddington area of London. This has impacted a huge number of UK businesses, including Sage Pay and the major banks that route transactions through the Exchange. Sage Pay has taken action on your behalf by quickly moving transaction processing to our backup data centre. However, the issue has affected connectivity to some banks who rely on the exchange and we are currently unable to process via those banks at this time.

    Please note, as banks and payment providers look for alternative transaction routing solutions away from the Paddington Exchange, this could create some general capacity issues, resulting in transaction 'time-outs'.

  22. rthurbin

    Candle Power

    Somebody tell Municipal Lighting we're going to candle power in ten minutes! Where's Richard Dreyfuss when you need him?

  23. Kevin Christoforou
    Thumb Down

    Sagepay 0 - 1 Worldpay

    Sagepay are a pile of p***!

    Thank goodness we have not moved completely over to Sagepay! Worldpay saves the day, again.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Colt netwokrs...

    Some of our Colt links are down as well...

  25. BigmanUK
    Thumb Up

    My internet has never been faster

    Wow massive speed increase!

  26. Volvic

    O2 as well

    O2 have 117 cell sites down across london due to this, if anyone's interested!

  27. SteveMilner

    Sage Pay Still have problems with HBOS * Cardnet

    Incident Report from SagePay:

    At 9:50am this morning we had problems connecting to the authorising banks.

    We investigated and subsequently moved our authorisations to our DR site which was processing at 9:59

    After a brief period of processing the authorisations slowed, this was a result of many people moving to backup configurations to route round an issue that transpired to be a fire at a main telecoms/datacoms exchange in docklands.

    Within minutes the bottle neck had eased and we were processing transactions for all banks except HBOS and Lloyds TSB. We switched the destination NUA’s to the backups and there was still nothing being processed by those banks

    We made the appropriate calls and even though our backup X25 system worked perfectly it transpires that the bureau responsible for processing HBOS and Lloyds transactions did not have resilience outside of that exchange.

    We have been working with the bureau and alternative to X25 in order to resolve the issue.

    As of 15:15 we now have a workaround in place, however with the X25 network working at a much reduced capacity we are experiencing delays in processing transactions

  28. Anonymous Coward


    Must have been the un-relenting, raw fury of countless IT people manifesting itself as the FLAMES OF HELL THEMSELVES after having their internet connections hijacked to force BT marketing tripe down our necks.

    Or something else, probably.

  29. Mark Barton 1
    Thumb Down

    Ugh Sagepay

    $work uses Sagepay for taking payments on our retail website, which has seen a drop in orders because of this issue and it also doesn't help that we also use Zen for our ADSL which is experiencing very slooooow downloads :(

  30. mus42

    Oh the horror!

    Can someone please reassure me that they managed to save the Marmalade Sandwiches from destruction!

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Redundancy Costs

    Every time there is an outage of this sort there is at least one commentard who goes on about redundancy. Last week we had an outage at one of our sites which took down chip and pin for almost a whole day, this was down to an equipment failure at a BT exchange which, to be fair to BT they worked into the early hours to fix. However we got it in the ear from our customer because they said that (a) they should have been warned in advance so they could implement their BCP and (b) the system should be redundant to prevent this sort of thing happening.

    We answered (a) that the point of your BCP is that it's a robust plan to account for emergencies and you don't often get warning of emergencies, unless they happen to be caused by an earthquake and you happen to speak toad. And (b) that BT could probably make every bit of kit and every single circuit redundant, they could have redundant power supplies and diverse routed circuits and it would all cost a fortune.

    If BT or your ISP increased your bill by 100% or more to implement this redundancy would you be happy to pay?

    The internet is packed full of redundancy. To use some old terminology if a hub site goes down somewhere the rest of the network will route around it, but you still have a big hole around that site. Any edge site that connects into that hub will be down until the hub site is back on line. If the end user wants redundancy then they need to connect to more than one hub site.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Why didn't you have redundancy?

      Well said.

      Typically customers look at the cost of a redundant/diverse network and decide it's too expensive. Then they get an outage like this and re-evaluate the business risk. Go figure.

      Biggest SPF on networks are the single circuits to customer and for retailers or small businesses running on xDSL, that's very difficult to provide any kind of diverse path back to the exchange. But it's cheap, until it goes wrong and you can't trade. Linked to that is the xDSL termination at the ISP side. Those circuits are expensive, so if ISP's don't have diverse connectivity to multiple terminating sites, there's another SPF but that one is more outside of the end customer's control, unless they ask their provider the right questions.

      Unfortunately it often takes outages like this for customers to reconsider their network design, BCP and whether the cost of a resilient network solution is right for them. YGWYPF.

  32. Chris Harden

    no problems...

    Passing this story to a good friend, he politely informed me that BT must have got the news wrong....apparently there are no problems on the Internet:

  33. Chris Harden

    good report on the bbc


  34. Ohrockyrocky

    No cards on TfL or at McDonalds either

    DR managers might hear the sound of P45s dropping on their desks at TfL who cannot accept any cards anywhere on their network and McDonalds who have similar problems in London.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    BT Update - Serious Incident Anounced

    Serious Incident Briefing

    Flooding in North Paddington Exchange

    Issue No. 1 Issued at: 31/03/2010

    Start: 31/03/2010 Declared SI: 31/03/2010

    Finish: Ongoing


    Following major flooding in North Paddington exchange, a large number of customers in parts of North and West London may be experiencing a loss of broadband and/or telephony service. Customers in other parts of the country may also be affected.

    We are currently working on restoring services to customers, however as this is a complex incident we cannot accurately predict when all services will be restored.

    We will issue further updates as the situation changes.

    Dialling Codes Affected: 01132 01142 01159 01162 01179

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    0292059 0292073 LLCL0 LLCM0 LLEA0






    1. Kevin Reader

      Erm big definition of N & W London

      Unless thats a list of the codes for *everywhere* North and West London now includes Basildon and Southend to name just two! Big outage.

      1. Mr Brush

        Lincolnshire now in London

        There's quite a few Lincolnshire codes in there too. Explains why my rural Interweb has been down for the last 24 hours.

        Nice of Pipex to have an 'All is well' message on their status page dated 2008. Glad I stopped short of resetting my router and taking the debugging shotgun to the settings.

  36. Graham Bartlett

    @Ed Blackshaw

    "data for other parts of the country are being routed via central London, but they can't be more specific about whom or where"

    Dude, isn't that kind of the whole point of TCP/IP? I suspect BT have more important things to do than look at exactly where each packet is going - so long as it reaches its destination, however slow that may be, the internet's architecture has done its job.

  37. Richard Porter

    Flood --> Fire

    So what happens when you flood a basement full of 2v cells and 48v bus bars? It fizzles a bit.

  38. benseb
    Thumb Up

    Thank goodness we moved away from Sagepay

    We moved as we were sick of Sagepay's non-existant redundancy.

    Thankfully, with it being pay-day today and just before a bank holiday, this has been one of our busiest days of the years. It would have fallen very flat if we'd still been with Sagepay.

    £10,000s of lost income avoided thanks to forward thinking.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Their broadband is a scorcher of a deal, you'll be positively flooded in downloads.

  40. ElNumbre

    Its good to talk.

    Funny - we had about 6 of our sites out today (out of 300 or so), but we heard about the MSO via the Register, not via our account mangler, or the service announcments.

    And by 3pm, our BT contact centre had stopped accepting new calls because they were too busy. Given its location in the North of Scotland, I guess they had a fair number of staff away because of the snow. Its a good job the snow didn't fall in the South East, as all the home-workers wouldn't have been able too.. :)

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sainsbury's in Berkeley Street (yes, in London)

    had no ability to process card transactions. I didn't enquire of other local businesses what effect the outage was having on them

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      everything ok on dover street though

      i work in the area and everything is fine in the office. i have lost connectivity at home though which is in marble arch.

  42. Anonymous Coward

    The fire brigade attended and "addressed" the fire...

    To whom?

  43. Kevin Reader
    Paris Hilton

    Glad the update cleared things up...

    I was about to post suggesting that you'd got the headline wrong, as it more usual to get flooding after the fire due to the efforts of Fireman Sam and his mates. Or the sprinklers.

    Then I thought maybe BT got their logic confused and decided that if you could cure a fire with a flood, maybe you could dry out a flood with a fire? I'm glad that they've assured us this wasn't the case.

    Ms Hilton, cos she's much better at dealing with unexpected heat & floods.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It is a good job they don't keep putting all those eggs in one basket.

    ... Oops, they do?

  45. Dr. Funk.

    My office is down the road from the exchange

    And we have our broadband back (altough the Easynet status page still reports an error). Monitoring software tells me it was about 2am this morning.

    Still no phones though.

    Fire Engines still outside the exchange as well.....

  46. Pie

    Nildram didn't bother to update their RSS feed

    So you have to call their help line at vast expense, or try and navigate to their website (the link from the rss feed is broken)

    It's nice to know they have a resiliant network, that can cope with any eventuality, thank goodness our buisness is in a tiny village so the exchange doesn't have the datastream link, but my home is out and won't be back on tell tomorrow at the earliest (according to the message).

    1. Chris Miller
      Thumb Up

      Nildram support

      Very helpful as usual and at least they're not based in Bangalore - try 01296 300400 for (free) support calls.

      My exchange (Naphill, Bucks) has just come back on line after 24 hours out.

  47. Pie

    forgot to mention

    my local garage can't take credit cards at the moment, I pressume thats related...

  48. Nigel 11


    I know it's a real problem with a real BT installation, but if this line was not added by the Reg for comic effect, it's proof that the gods have a sense of humour

    A blaze at Burne House in North Paddington was reported this morning.

    Next, a report from BT that they have suffered a second whammy because their national emergency backup centre at Loudwater was flooded early this morning.

  49. T-Dawg

    I live right next to the exchange

    ... and my telephony just came back at around 8:30

    Not sure about broadband but I am assuming that would work as well.

    As Dr. Funk said, still fire engines there, must've been a big flood. I'm still curious as to how an electrical failure caused a flood which then caused a fire...

    An electrical failure causing a fire causing a flood (through sprinklers) is understandable, but not the other way round. Unless they have water pumps running 24/7 which is just madness...

  50. Anonymous Coward

    Harley St now up...

    But across the Marylebone Road at home dead, very dead.

    Frankly I'd rather it were the other way around.

  51. Anonymous Coward

    Leicester affected?

    my dialing code is there and I am in leicester, however I didnt have an outage.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Better now...

    Land lines and broadband is back now in Marylebone. O2 down unless you could get sight of the BT Tower. T-Mobile went off for about 12 hours in all, too, a bit irritating to discover my 3G service was plumbed into the same place as the landline, without any routes around.

    That said, now it's back the broandband connection is screamy loads faster...

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