THOUSANDS of homes and businesses were cut off after a telephone fault.

The problem at the Wrexham exchange yesterday morning left up to 46,000 customers without a phone service.

BT said the problem began at 11.20am and affected customers in the north of Wrexham as well as Ruabon, Mold and the surrounding areas.

Among major users hit were Wrexham Council and Glyndwr University.

And in the Brymbo area a number of people became concerned they could not get in touch with their doctors’ surgeries.

For more than an hour staff at Wrexham Council could not make or receive calls and people trying to ring into the authority heard a recorded BT message telling them the network was busy and to try again later.

A BT spokesman said: “A fault at Wrexham exchange from 11.20am on Thursday potentially affected up to 46,000 customers but by 1pm our engineers had restored service to around 19,000 customers.

“The final ones being reconnected at 2.27pm.

“The fault was traced to a fuse blowing in a rectifier which caused other rectifiers to fail.

“We’d like to apologise to customers who were affected by these breaks in service.”

“Calls to 999 were also affected and police were advised so that they could mobilise their contingency plans.”

The spokesman denied the problem could have been caused by an overload of the system as youngsters phoned their parents to tell them of A-level results.

Brymbo councillor Paul Rogers said: “The situation has been particularly concerning for vulnerable people in the area.

“I have been contacted by people who were concerned they couldn’t get in touch with their doctors’ surgeries.

“Taxi drivers in the area have also been complaining they couldn’t do any business.

“I am also particularly concerned about the impact this incident has had on local businesses.

“It is inevitable that many of them will have suffered a huge cost in an already difficult climate.”

He added: “I think BT should have more robust contingency plans in place.

“It is vital that in this day and age procedures are in place to ensure important communication infrastructure is protected.”

Reader Carrie-Ann Jones-Parry contacted the Leader to say: “I am heavily pregnant and was feeling unwell.

“My phone was dead for a few hours, but I wasn't impressed with BT for mucking things up.

“I am glad I didn’t need an ambulance this time. "

A Wales Ambulance Service spokesman said: “We’ve had no reports of any problems stemming from this.

“Contigency plans were put in operation to work together with the other emergency services controls and with Wrexham Maelor Hospital.”