NATIONAL Grid has responded to criticism of its handling of the gas cut crisis in East Barnet last month.

The Barnet Times was inundated with complaints from residents affected by the gas cut, between December 20 and 31 last year, after a burst water main flooded the gas supply system with water.

Many residents did not blame the company for the situation but bitterly complained about what they saw as a lack of information and poor customer service, with some calling the response "chaos", "a PR disaster" and "an utter fiasco".

Chipping Barnet MP, Theresa Villiers also expressed her dissatisfaction, saying the supplier “could have done better” for residents.

National Grid spokesman Antony Quarrell said that National Grid had worked continuously to restore gas supplies to East Barnet residents.

“The process was complex and our engineers had to remove large amounts of water in the gas mains,” he said.

“This was not a straightforward procedure due to the movement of water around the network and the water freezing on a number of occasions.

“At the height of the incident we had 200 engineers and support staff including customer relations officers on site. Many of the staff had been drafted in from different parts of the country.

“We sought to keep residents informed about the situation and set up an incident room at St Mary’s Primary School.”

In response to Mrs Villiers' calls for Mr Quarrell said the company keeps its processes under review at all times but did not commit to a specific assessment of the East Barnet situation.

He also said that regular updates about the situation were posted on National Grid's website and letters were sent out to residents to give information that was as up to date as possible.

He added: “We are sorry if people did not receive letters or if they did not find information in the letters helpful.”

Residents were also supplied with portable heaters during the crisis, although there was a shortage of these at times.