A major operation to fix a leak on a gas main that runs under one of Britain’s busiest motorways – without impacting traffic or local supplies
– is now under way.
Cadent, which manages the North West’s 21,000-mile gas pipe network, is going to solve the issue by ‘pushing’ a tough, new, plastic main through the old one.
That involves incredible engineering, says the project lead, and mostly out-of-sight of passing motorists.
After clearing land, the team will dig and reinforce five-metre-deep pits either side of the M60. They will then create a safe system for gas to continue to flow, and then carefully thread 210 metres of new pipe into the existing 15-inch diameter main.
Barring unforeseen challenges, all eight lanes of M60 should stay open throughout – with M60 users otherwise unaware what’s going on four-metres below them.
The work site is between junctions 16 (Clifton) and 17 (Whitefield).
“This gas main is an essential feed for thousands of homes, as well as industry,” said Mark Berry, Cadent’s Head of Customer Operations for the Manchester area.
“We first became aware of the leak during Storm Christoph and had to close the motorway overnight for a few hours while we sorted a temporary solution.
“That involved reducing pressures, which removed the immediate danger and kept gas flowing to the local area. But it was not in any way a long-term fix.
“The plan we’ve agreed on involves incredible engineering and will happen largely out-of-sight of the passing motorists.
“The only impact on the M60 should be no hard shoulder for a short distance.
“There are no properties nearby, so there should be no issue with noise.
“We are working in an area popular with walkers, who so far have largely just been inquisitive and, in fact, amazed once they find out what we’re doing here.
“We hope to have the main work all completed during February and early March, with everything site clear and the ground reinstated by the end of March.
“While we won’t compromise on our safety-first philosophy, we’ve clearly been mindful too of finding a solution that delivers minimum impact to our customers and to motorists. This does just that and I must thank our contractors, Highways England and lots of other agencies who’ve made sure it can happen so quickly.”
Cadent in the North West
Cadent operates four of the UK’s eight gas distribution networks. As well as North West England, it manages the networks for the West Midlands, Eastern England and North London.
Its North West network stretches from the Lake District to Crewe and is home to 21,000 miles of distribution pipes (most of them underground) and hundreds of above ground installations. If placed end-to-end, that amount of pipes would stretch from Manchester to Sydney, Australia, and back again.
More than 83 per cent of North West households are heated by gas.
The region was among the first to adopt the use of gas over 200 years ago and is about to lead the way again in a shift away from fossil gas to hydrogen.
Producing only heat and water at point of use, hydrogen is key to the UK’s net zero future and is set to be introduced at volume in the North West during the 2020s, through a Cadent-backed project, HyNet North West (www.hynet.co.uk