One of Brighton’s busiest junctions was plunged into darkness for 12 hours and drivers were forced to navigate with no traffic lights during rush hour.

Power was cut to nearly 670 homes and businesses as well as street lights and traffic signals after a blaze in a substation inside Preston Circus fire station.

Firefighters returned from a from a grill blaze on Lewes Road at 6.40pm on Thursday to find smoke pouring from the fire station and buildings from the viaduct on Preston Road to the Emporium on London Road were sat in darkness.

After the lights went out pedestrians, drivers and cyclists were forced to navigate the busy junction in the dark.


Resident Curtis Tappenden said: “The blackout led to free-for-all traffic chaos.”

He said people were “taking their lives in their hands” attempting to navigate the road.

Another resident, 31, said walking in the dark was both terrifying and difficult, as he bumped into trees, walls and people.

Sussex Police said they were called to help direct traffic. But commuters driving through the junction yesterday morning were flummoxed to find the traffic lights were still out of service.

The delay between power being restored at 6.20am yesterday morning and traffic lights coming back on at 8.45am was because UK Power Networks and Brighton and Hove City Council needed to “sync” the signals.

Yesterday’s blackout followed another four-hour power outage on Wednesday afternoon – also at Preston Circus.

The area’s businesses have been left frustrated by the back-to-back problems.Ryeec Brody, from Preston Circus Laundrette and Dry Cleaners, said: “It was a pain. “We had customers in here when it went out and all the machines stopped.

“We had to close and customers had to pack up their soaking clothes and take them home. They having to come back to do another wash.”

At the Duke of York’s Picture House the outage cut short a showing of Wolf of Wall Street and Thursday’s blackout meaning the cinema had to cancel its special showing of Coriolanus at the National Theatre.

Some businesses took the outage in good fun.

A member of staff at International Foods on Preston Road said: “We lost all power but we put up candles and torches and invited people in from the street telling them it was warm and safe inside.

“It’s amazing to see what happens and how people band together in times when things go wrong.

“Our boss was worried about people stealing so we told them that we had night vision.”

A UK Power Network statement said: “UK Power Networks engineers worked through the night and into the early hours of Friday in order to restore power supplies to customers in the Preston Circus area affected by a fault that occurred on the electricity distribution network on Thursday evening.

“Some customers experienced brief interruptions while the engineers reconfigured the network but supplies to the final group of customers were restored at 6.20am.

“We apologise for the inconvenience caused by this incident.

“Some customers in the Preston Circus area did experience some power cuts on Wednesday afternoon and into the evening because our engineers had to undertake some emergency repairs to our network. The number affected was similar to Thursday night.

“Our engineers are monitoring the network to ensure that the usual reliable service is maintained.”

A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesman said: “Staff from our highways team worked out of hours with UK Power Networks when reports of the power out-age came in.

“Once we were notified that the power was back on our contractor pulled out all the stops to get affected traffic signals reset as quickly as possible, with engineers at work onsite in a matter of minutes.”