Burnley: big gas main installed almost 100 years ago gets a 21st century upgrade

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  • Major engineering work gets under way to upgrade and future-proof a big gas main running unseen under three streets in a busy area of Burnley
  • Start follows months of planning to minimise disruption during these essential works, and keep everyone safe (residents, motorists and workers)
  • On-site teams prepare to expect the unexpected – as they return to an area where they last year discovered an unmapped rectangular gas main
Work has started to upgrade and future-proof an underground gas main which has helped heat homes in Burnley for nearly 100 years.
Cadent, which manages the North West’s gas mains, is replacing the old main in Stoneyholme to maintain the safe delivery of gas for heating homes.
More than 85 per cent of the 31,946 households in Burnley use gas for central heating, with many also using it for cooking meals and hot water.
The current gas main – which is 30 inches in diameter and runs underneath Burns Street, Brougham Street and Oswald Street – was installed in 1926.
It has been identified for replacement by Cadent as part of the company’s 30-year, multi-million-pound programme to upgrade its ageing assets.
This latest phase in Burnley represents around £150,000 investment to upgrade 300 metres of main. Added to around 900 metres upgraded on the same main in recent years, that’s investment by Cadent of £600,000 in ensuring reliable, long-term and increasingly-greener gas supplies for this area of the town.
Every year in the North West, Cadent upgrades more than 300 miles of its older metallic mains to new, durable plastic that will last for a minimum 80 years more.

Last year, while working on this same gas main, engineers made the unusual find of a rectangular gas main, the one you can see in the photo above. While they’re all different diameter, gas mains are meant to be round! This was a solution created by engineers in the 1920s to carry the gas main over a coal tunnel that was discovered along the route they’d planned for their pipe to take. It was, however, not listed as such on maps.

Planning teams have worked with highways officers at Lancashire County Council to time the bulk of the more traffic restricting work to school holidays.
Work got under way this month in Burns Street, which is currently closed at its junction with Brougham Street. Schools breaking-up for summer will signal the closure in both directions of Brougham Street – between Oswald Street and Burns Street only – with traffic instead directed to follow a signed diversion route.
The engineers will also be working in Oswald Street during the school holiday period but will keep a lane open for motorists to get to homes and businesses (the flow will be managed by traffic lights). All work will be completed before Burnley Stoneyholme CP School (on Oswald Street) reopens after the holidays.
“This is vital work, future-proofing our gas mains so customers in Burnley can receive safe and reliable supplies, for heating their homes and cooking meals,” said Craig Horrocks, who heads Cadent’s mains replacement in the North West.
“Our gas mains are mostly located underneath roads, which means we face a big challenge to safely carry out heavy engineering schemes in close proximity to motorists and pedestrians. So, as you can imagine, the start of work this month in Stoneyholme is actually the culmination of months of planning, including liaising with Lancashire County Council, to agree the best time to carry out the work and how best to safely manage pedestrians and traffic passing our work area.
“Safety is always our top priority, and I really want to thank people for their patience and understanding as we complete this essential upgrade.”
Home owners and business in the immediate vicinity – those within the work area and nearby – have received letters about the work and many have been visited too. A customer team is available on 0161 703 1110 to answer queries.
Important message if you live in this area: if you smell gas, do not dismiss it as connected to this work. Report it immediately to 0800 111 999. Calls to this number are recorded and may be monitored.
Cadent is a gas distribution network, responsible for safely transporting gas to more than 11 million customers in North West England, the Midlands, East of England and North London, through more than 80,000 miles of pipes. It also provides the 24/7, year-round gas emergency service to the same regions.

The banner photograph on this page shows engineers installing deep excavation kit in Burns Street, having reached the 1.2m depth limit they can work in before needing to reinforce the work area.


Cadent is the UK’s largest gas distribution network with a 200-year legacy.  We are in a unique position to build on strong foundations whilst encouraging the curiosity to think differently and the courage to embrace change.  Day to day we continue to operate, maintain and innovate the UK’s largest gas network, transporting gas safely and protecting people in an emergency.   Our skilled engineers and specialists remain committed to the communities we serve, working day and night to ensure gas reaches 11 million homes from Cumbria to North London and the Welsh Borders to East Anglia, to keep your energy flowing. 

Future of Gas: Here at Cadent we support the Government’s plans to reach Net Zero by 2050. That means we’re backing the introduction of hydrogen as a low carbon alternative to natural gas for the future. We know people love the controllability of gas and, with our network already in place, it makes sense to switch to the lower carbon alternative offered by hydrogen, which we believe can keep homes and businesses warm for generations to come.

Cadent manages the national gas emergency service free phone line on behalf of the gas industry - 0800 111 999*

Cadent Gas Ltd is owned by a consortium of global investors.

*All calls are recorded and may be monitored.

Media contacts

Kevin Hegarty


07970 694897