(Adds comment from BoE Governor Mark Carney)
By David Milliken
LONDON, Oct 20 (Reuters) - A Bank of England payments system that handles more than 260 billion pounds ($420 billion) a day suffered a major outage on Monday, forcing the central bank to extend its operating hours until late into the evening.
The Real Time Gross Settlement System (RTGS), which underpins a system for high-value interbank payments and securities settlement, did not work normally until around 1500 GMT on Monday.
The BoE extended the opening hours of the system by almost four hours to 1900 GMT. It said the problems had been caused by “a technical issue related to some routine maintenance”.
Normal bank payments were not affected, but local media reported that some people were unable to complete house purchases on time.
Andrew Tyrie, a Conservative lawmaker who chairs the parliament committee which scrutinises the BoE, demanded a full explanation of what went wrong.
“The whole economy depends on a reliable payment system. We need to have confidence that the cause has been found and addressed,” he said in a statement.
Later on Monday, the BoE said its governor, Mark Carney, had begun a “thorough, independent review,” the findings of which would be made public.
The operators of the CHAPS interbank payment system - which relies on RTGS - said after RTGS re-opened that all transfers submitted on Monday would be completed on the same day.
The last outage in the RTGS occurred in September last year, but that was fixed by the middle of the day. The last time operating hours for RTGS needed to be extended was in February 2007, when the day was lengthened by 45 minutes.
The BoE published an article last month describing how it had put more back-up plans in place in February to guard against a failure in RTGS. ($1 = 0.6198 British Pounds) (Additional reporting by Matt Scuffham, Editing by William Schomberg, Larry King)