UK Power Networks has leveraged its new all-terrain vehicles to help reconnect cut off communities in the snowy north following Storm Arwen.
Storm Arwen caused power outages for thousands of homes across Scotland and the North of England, with Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks and Northern Powergrid working around the clock to restore power. Despite the efforts, the two firms came under intense criticism from MPs for the time it took to bring power back for some customers.
Thankfully, the distribution network operators had help, with UK Power Networks stepping in to help repair the damage. Its new all-terrain vehicles were put to work in remote areas of Yorkshire and Northumberland to give electricity teams access to fallen and broken poles in hard-to-reach areas. Normally the vehicles are used in the fenlands of Cambridgeshire, the downs in Sussex and remote parts of East Anglia in all weathers.
Electricity operator UK Power Networks commissioned six Mercedes-Benz Unimogs to cope with all ground conditions across the 29,000 square kilometres where it serves 8.3 million customers in the East, South East and London.The vehicles are used by highly-trained ‘hot glove’ teams working on live overhead power lines that carry up to 46,000 volts. They also have a two-person bucket for engineers working at heights of up to nearly 15 metres, unlike older versions which had two separate buckets.
Staff from Network Operations and Transport teams at the company were consulted about key features that would be needed. The body of each vehicle has secure lockers, some of which are heated, as well as lights and beacons powered by a 1,000-watt inverter. The telescopic platform is fully insulated against electrical grounding and has the additional benefit of a powerful material-handling arm with a lifting capacity of 455kg.
UK Power Networks’ vehicles are fitted with the biggest permissible agricultural tyres and equipped with optional inflation technology. This unique system allows drivers quickly and easily, and without leaving the cab, to lower tyre pressures, which creates a larger, flatter ‘contact patch’ and helps minimise damage to particularly soft ground.
The hydraulic arms, buckets and bodywork were added by specialist supplier Versalift in Kettering, to vehicles supplied by dealer Arthur Ibbett, of St Neots, Cambridgeshire.
UK Power Networks transport operations manager Cliff Allender, noted, “These vehicles are deployed daily across the area we serve, which stretches from East Anglia to the south coast, and are used to maintain overhead power cables supported by wood poles.
“Many of our power lines are in remote and difficult-to-access locations but the fantastic off-road capability allows us to go anywhere, at any time, in all conditions. The extras lights and heated lockers that we included after consulting with our crews, will be a great help when they are called out at night or in severe weather.”