Don’t look down! Engineers work on city power lines

MAN ON A WIRE An engineer working on power cables on Portsdown Hill
MAN ON A WIRE An engineer working on power cables on Portsdown Hill
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FEARLESS engineers have been spotted dangling from high-voltage cables as they work to upgrade the area’s power supply.

Southern Electric Power Distribution is refurbishing 10km (just over six miles) of power lines which run parallel to the M27.

The upgrades are aimed at boosting the reliability of power supplies to around 70,000 homes in Fareham and the eastern part of Portsmouth.

Over the Easter weekend, crews of engineers were seen working attached to the power lines as they recoated the wires at Portsdown Hill.

The work is being carried out in two phases. Each phase involves upgrading two power lines.

They are connected together with ‘spacers’ to keep them secure in the face of strong winds which blow over Portsdown Hill.

Engineers have been replacing these spacers to improve stability in rough weather.

The lines, which were originally built in 1965, will last another 25 years once the maintenance work is complete.

Jonathan Ebel, Southern Electric’s lead design manager, said: ‘It’s mentally challenging and you need a real head for heights obviously.

‘We always maintain a safe working procedure with full body harness on and we are connected to the tower at all times.

‘This work will secure a safe and reliable supply.

‘Due to the winds from the sea it is important this line is maintained.

‘It comes under additional stress because of its location.

‘Our work will secure the serviceable life of the network for the next 25 years.

‘We have worked with local landowners, local authorities and Natural England to ensure consent was obtained before work commenced.’

The first phase of the project, involving work on one of the power lines, began in October last year and was completed in December.

Engineers are now working on the second power line.

Most of the work on the electrical pylon near the M27 is expected to finish later this week.

But refurbishments on one of the pylon’s insulators will take longer, as peregrine falcons were found to be nesting nearby.

Mr Ebel added: ‘We have been working with Natural England and our environmental consultant to ensure the natural habitat of these birds is maintained.

‘We have also worked closely with the highways authority and the rail network to ensure any disruption is kept to an absolute minimum.’

Southern Electric is spending £1.4m on the project to refurbish the power lines in Portsmouth.

The power company hopes to complete the upgrades by August.