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For those who don't know, Transco/National Grid run the backbone of the UK's gas network. So, they supply the gas and charges your gas company for it, and then your gas company charge you. As a consumer, the only contact you are ever likely to have with them is in a gas emergency. As I was "lucky" enough to have just that last night, I figured I would go through the basics. A gas emergency is something that makes you suspect something has gone hokey with the gas supply. The most common sign is a smell of gas, but a very low gas supply - for instance only being able to get a tiny flame on your gas cooker - is also suspect as it may be low due to a leak reducing the pressure. An irregular pressure issue is suspect for the same reason. In my case the gas fire had suddenly flared up rather unnervingly, and I was unsure if I could smell gas. Better safe than sorry, so I gave them a call. Now, the number for a gas emergency doiesn't change no matter who your supplier is. It will always be 0800111999. It's open 24/7 - I called about 10PM and got through straight away. The girl asked me what the emergency was - could I smell gas, was there a smell of gas outside - and took my address and details. She also checked I'd followed safety proceedures. For those who don't know, in a potential gas emergency, the first thing you should do is turn off all gas appliances, then turn off your supply at the meter. Do that by opening the meter box and pulling the handle 90 degrees towards you (the only occasion where you should NOT do that is if your meter is in a cellar. Gas is heavy, and will sink down to the lowest room.). Then, open doors and windows to let any gas dissapate while you wait for the engineer. The engineer should arrive within an hour - in my case, within 40 minutes. He was a nice guy, not at all bothered by having to tromp around working when most people were settling for the night. He checked my meter, determined there was no leak, checked my heating, and checked my fire, finally determining that although he suspected my fire was safe he couldn't guarantee it and that I needed to have it serviced before using it again. He also relit my pilot light. Let me make it very clear - the engineers they send out are not *required* to do this. They are only their to make sure your house isn't going to explode and you aren't going to suffocate and die. This means they don't have to relight pilot lights, but may as a favour. They also do not cover your gas appliances. If you do have a leak they will deal with that, but they will not (and cannot) fix your gas, fire, or oven. All they can do is classify it as "safe", a "concern for safety" which means there are no obvious defects but further tests are needed, "at risk" which means a defect has been found which could make it become unsafe, or "immediate danger" which means it WILL be dangerous if used. Any one of those last three makes it illegal to use the appliance until you've had a Corgi registered engineer out to look at it. In my case, the gas fire is now "cause for concern" rated, which was probably the least bad outcome I could expect (I had a new carpet fitted in that room last month, dammit! I don't want to replace the fire!) The engineer explained that he thinks it was probably just a one of freak occurence but that for liability's sake he can't confirm that until it's been safety checked which was fair enough. No-one wants the house to blow up after all. So, not so much of an emergency after all. But good customer service, prompt response and a polite engineer made finding that out a good easy process.
Transco! Whilst having a new gas meter fitted, the Engineer noticed that a gas fire in the hallway was defective. He said he would have to disconnect it which seemed quite reasonable. However, some hours later, when I attempted to switch the gas cooker on....nothing! I phoned my gas supplier and told him that there was a problem and he arranged for a visit from Transco. The Engineer, when he came, informed me that the last Engineer had disconnected the entire gas supply to the property - and that I had signed for him to do so! I told him that I had signed for the disconnection of the faulty appliance only, and he produced a grubby, illegible scrap of paper with my signature - purporting to be allowing them to disconnect the entire supply! I found the Engineer's attitude both offensive and threatening and my questions about why I would have a new meter fitted and then disconnected at the same time were obviously out of his league of comprehension. I eventually made him re-connect the supply and off he ambled muttering that "People are always accusing me of being rude etc. and I'm sick of it!" Full marks Transco - your staff training has obviously a long way to go.
Transco is the company you telephone if you can smell gas and they come out to check it for you. Well I had the misfortune to have to ring them as I could smell gas, 1 hour later the guy comes out, and after testing my meter informs me that my gas cooker has a slight leak in it. Fair enough I thought just unplug it, but no he did even worse than that he unplugged it and took the whole connection off the wall so I could not have the old cooker plugged in, I had to pay someone to come out on a sunday to replace the connection onto the wall and plug in my old cooker. I think this is awful he could have just plugged in my old cooker for me rather than leave me without no form of cooking all night, and to top it all of he must have done something to my central heating, as when he went I went to put my central heating on and it would not work. So aswell as paying for the cooker to be plugged in I had to pay for someone to loook at my boiler. I will say though that they are quite quick at coming out though. But what turned out to be a free call out (they do not charge) turned into a very expensive job
Now we have all seen the cartoon when the plumbing is faulty and you turn on the hob and get a squirt of water in the face. Well water in the gas supply is not nearly so amusing or spectacular, just very anoying. Back in September 1999 we noticed that every time the gas central heating came on, the gas fire would start to surge the flames up and down. So when the British Gas engineer came to give the boiler its regular check up we mentioned this. He said the boiler was fine but checked the gas supply for us, and said he thought there was some water in it. We needed to call Transco. So we phoned Transco, who told us to turn off the supply and not to touch any switches or light matches etc.They would send some one round within the hour. An engineer arrived after about 20 mins which was excellent. He sealed the meter and condemned our supply. He then had to ring another team to come pump out the water. It took a couple of hours for them to arrive. They pumped out the water and then our gas was back on. Well no it wasn't, they had to call the guy who originally turned it off to turn it back on and re-light the boiler. Now the boiler lights automatically and even I can light it, but we had to wait. So after about another hours wait it was all back to normal. I asked the engineers who pumped it out if it was likely to happen again, they were optimistic and said that most of the leaks had been fixed in the area and it wasn't likely. How did the water get in? Well I was told that it seeps in and if we get a lot of wet weather it can rise up and get into the domestic supply. All is fine until spring 2000 when whilst playing outside with my daughter, I hear a swishing noise near the gas pipe at the side of the house. I ring Transco get the usual advice and promised help within the hour. It is the same thing again, some one to turn it off, another team to pump it out and someone else to turn it on again. This time though we report it at about 5pm, by 5.30pm it has been disconnected. We get a call at about 7.30pm saying that they are very busy with leaks and other emergencies but will come as soon as possible. At 10pm on a very chilly early spring night, we get a call to say that they will not be able to sort the problem until the morning. 9.30am the team arrive but have a faulty pump and have to change it, by 11am the supply has been drained of water. This team of engineers have a bit more sense as we have been without heating all night, they turn on the gas for me and light the boiler. Will it happen again they don't think so. January 2001, a Sunday evening and the grill keeps going out and the oven is taking forever to cook a meal, I go and listen to the pipe and hear the familiar swishing. To get enough pressure to finish the cooking I turn off everything except the cooker. I ring them on Monday morning to report the water. Again someone has to condemn the supply before it can be dried out. I point out that I am now becoming an expert in this matter and could they just send out the pump. No they couldn't. So after reporting it at 9am, I have to sit around in a cold house from 9.30 waiting for Transco. I miss the first day of an important course, and they finally turn up in the early evening. If I had known they were going to be so late I could have attended my course and got back to let them in. When Transco arrive they are efficient, friendly and helpful. But as with every other service they are understaffed and poorly equipped. The helpline staff do their best, but are bound by strict protocols. I am surprised that they are able to be so friendly, when having to cope with very difficult customers, that feel frustrated by the system and service. Today the rain is pouring down, and I just hope that the water is no longer getting into the gas supp ly. What also worries me is where is it getting in exactly, and if water gets in can't gas get out. So if you see me listening to the outside wall of my house, you will know I am just checking the gas.
Transco, for those of you who don't know, are the people you get through to when you have a problem such as a gas leak. They are the ones who come out and fix it if you are lucky!! We came across them last week, much to our misfortune. When we arrived home last Wednesday, at the end of our drive was a dreadful smell of gas, we rang the emergency number in the phone book and they said someone would be out within the hour, which they were. Great, I hear you say, what good service! Well believe me that was the only part that was. A man arrived, made holes in the pavement and in our drive way. He then came and knocked and said yes there was a leak , but it was actually outside our property and wouldn't cause us any problems. He explained that it was a small leak, and as all the crews were busy, it would be tomorrow morning before it was repaired. Now I wasn't overjoyed with this, but he assured me there was no cause for alarm. Thursday arrived, but the repair men didn't! Friday came, but they didn't! I rang again, it took them ages to actually find records of it, when they did, they expressed great surprise that it hadn't been done already, and assured me it would be done Saturday am. Well this went on all week! I have heard every concievable excuse from lost paperwork to petrol shortages! Now I know they said it wouldn't affect us and it was a small leak, but it is very worrying when the smell floats in the kitchen window as you cook, and all you can smell when you open the front door is gas. Even the neighbours rang to complain. Yesterday, they arrived! One week and one day later. As if all of that wasn't bad enough, they came, and of course have dug up all the pavement outside my house. As I left the house to go to the shops one of them said to me "hey missus, hope you're not planning on using your caravan " When I asked why he said it w as because they had no idea how long the job was going to take and it wouldn't be finished before early next week at the soonest! Yes you've guessed it! We were going away this weekend, to Devon to visit family. Bang goes that plan. Surely it would have cost them nothing to knock on my door when they arrived and explain this to me. and I could have moved the caravan of the front garden before they started. The whole situation has been a farce from the start and who knows when it will finish, but believe me Transco have not heard the end of this!!