Walking the line for Cadent: Ross’s Journey to Line walking

working for us

Name: Ross Pickering

Job Title: Asset Supervisor, West Midlands Pipelines

Job Description: Inspecting Cadent’s network of high and intermediate pressure gas pipes and checking they are in good condition and operating correctly, identifying where repair and remediation work is needed and reducing the risk of third party damage

Sum up what you do
Line walking is one of the largest maintenance activities that plant protection operatives do.
It involves physically walking along the route of our high and intermediate pressure network and ensuring the gas pipes are in good condition and operating safely. We do this to ensure that our pipelines are not at increased risk from land erosion, flooding, vegetation and third-party activities, all while making sure that the routes of our pipelines are visible through appropriate signage and marker posts which alerts anyone planning on working in the vicinity of our pipelines to contact plant protection before starting work.
The type of data we collect during line walking include looking for:
  • Evidence of gas leaks and pipe discoloration (which could indicate corrosion)
  • Proximity of buildings to our pipes and infringements of easements (the agreements we have with landowners to run our pipeline through their land)
  • Locations where new pipeline marker posts are needed
  • Ground conditions such as flooding or land slips
  • The depth of cover over the pipeline
 The data we collect is then analysed to determine what if any work is needed to ensure the pipes continue to operate safely and efficiently.
We have to inspect high pressure pipes every four years and intermediate pressure pipes every 10 years and the inspections have to be carried out in winter. The reason for this is the pipes are located in mainly rural and agricultural locations. Carrying out the inspections when there are few crops and vegetation around minimizes disruption for the farm owners on whose land much of the network passes through. Outside of winter we’re kept busy with other aspects of plant protection work.
Working with helicopters
This is a very exciting and dynamic part of the job. As a plant protection operative at any time you’re on duty you may be asked to attend what we refer to as a ‘helicopter sighting’.  Cadent employs contractors who carry out airborne inspections of our pipelines using helicopters. ‘Helicopter sightings’ generally involve things spotted from the air that have the potential to post a risk to our pipelines and typically require attending within 24 hours. However more serious sightings may need us to attend within one hour. This may include things such as damaged or fallen marker posts, unauthorised items stored on or near the pipeline or excavation works taking place near one of our pipelines. The one-hour response is generally reserved for excavations that the helicopter believes are very near our pipeline and present a bigger risk of damage. When you attend a ‘helicopter sighting’ you must assess the situation and provide appropriate guidance to landowners as appropriate. This may involve them stopping third party work if its deemed necessary to safeguard life, property and security of supply.  
Would you recommend the job?
Yes, for the right person it’s a fantastic job.
If you love being outdoors and physically active, it can be very enjoyable, with line walkers covering on average 260km each winter. However, as the inspections are normally done in winter, you need to be prepared to tolerate the cold!

What experience do you need for the role?
You need to relevant skills and experience in High Pressure and Intermediate Pressure Plant Protection, such as the use of pipeline locating equipment, pipeline marking, carrying out vantage surveys which involve viewing the pipeline route from strategic points, attending helicopter sightings and the supervision of excavations around gas pipelines.
The job requires you to hone and use all the skills you learn as a Plant Protection Field Force Operative. Being self-motivated, determined and having the confidence to enforce our rules when third parties are working around our pipeline is a must. Ensuring everyone’s safety is their priority!

 How did you get into the job?
I began my career at Cadent on the Engineering Training Programme (ETP). While on scheme, I gained an HNC in mechanical engineering and had the opportunity to explore various roles within Cadent including Pipelines, Emergency, Repair and Mains Replacement. I completed the scheme in 2019, and began work as an Asset Supervisor for Pipelines in the West Midlands Pipelines.



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*

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Media contacts

Ben Green


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