By Rob Johnson
Interim Director of Construction
During the COVID-19 lockdown, Cadent has been playing a critical role in keeping everyone warm, safe and well.
Our staff have been working around the clock to make sure that gas safely reaches your homes and the hospitals, schools and public services we all rely on, as well as powering businesses, factories and industry.
But none of this would be possible without our 82,000-mile network of gas pipes. Continuing the essential work to renew ageing pipes in the teeth of a global pandemic, unprecedented in modern times, has been one the biggest challenges of recent months.
Every year we have been upgrading our gas network to make it fit for the future. We have been replacing ageing iron gas mains, some laid in the 1800s, with brand new plastic pipes that will maintain safe and reliable gas supplies into the 22nd century.
Much of this work requires us to go into customers’ homes. Once we’ve laid a new pipe in the street, we then need to check people’s gas appliances to make sure the gas is flowing safely.
But when the COVID-19 lockdown was announced it took some quick thinking and rapid action to keep our gas mains programme on track. With strict lockdown rules governing contact with others, business as usual just wasn’t an option.
Instead, the solution lay in a radical reorganisation of our gas mains replacement programme – and in double-quick time.
In a mammoth effort, staff combed through hundreds of gas mains replacement projects, identifying those that didn’t need us to enter people’s homes. Next, we approached the local councils, who give us permission to work in the road.
Despite being in lockdown themselves, with many staff working from home, the councils went above and beyond to assist. Talking to them earlier on about our proposals helped us all to successfully reshuffle the gas mains programme.
Thanks to their help we were able to put together a programme of work to be carried out during April, May and June that renewed ageing mains but at the same time minimised contact with the public.
Not only that, but we also worked with local authorities to plan work during the lockdown that would normally be much more disruptive. With many shops and businesses closed and traffic much lighter than usual, we used the opportunity to carry out work in some challenging areas with minimal impact on traders and motorists.
Safety is at the heart of what we do. To keep our colleagues and the public safe when engineers were working in the road we had to quickly brief them on new ways of working, in line with government guidelines, including social distancing, where possible, and appropriate additional personal protective equipment.
To reschedule many months of gas mains replacement projects, involving hundreds of kilometres of gas mains stretching from the Thames to the Lake District, is no mean feat. To do it in a matter of weeks is remarkable.
Thanks to the efforts of Cadent staff, contractors and local councils, 170kms of new gas mains will be laid by the end of June - brand new pipes that will keep people safe and warm for decades to come – and we will have kept many people in work.
As lockdown restrictions ease, we will be looking to resume our gas mains replacement programme in full. This has safety at its heart – both during the installation of new pipes, as our colleagues adopt new ways of working that avoid the spread of COVID-19, and for many decades to come, as customers reap the benefits of a modern gas network.
How we’ve kept gas flowing, supported the UK Government Covid-19 emergency response, looked after our customers, looked after ourselves, and focussed on our future energy needs – this is #OurLockdownStory. Follow our social media channels and this page of our website www.cadentgas.com/ourlockdownstory for more in this special series showcasing the amazing achievements of Cadent’s #keyworkers