Winter gas supply fears in Preston prompt 'urgent' four-month project to bring network up to scratch
Urgent gas main work has begun in Preston amid fears supply might not meet demand during the coming winter.
A house building boom in the north of the city is putting so much strain on the existing network that engineers are worried it soon won't be able to cope.
Gas distributor Cadent says there is now an "urgent" need for new mains to keep supplies flowing.
It has begun a £500,000 scheme in the Lightfoot Lane/Tom Benson Way area of Fulwood and Cottam to install up to 1,200 metres of new pipework.
The project will last for up to four months, but the company says it will maintain supplies throughout the operation. But at the request of the highways authority work will be stood down for a couple of weeks in the build-up to Christmas.
Traffic is likely to be affected in the area, although carriageways will only be partially closed with temporary traffic lights installed to keep vehicles moving.
"Significant development in this area of Preston has put a huge strain on the existing gas infrastructure," said a Cadent spokesperson.
"Our pipes, which run underneath roads, carry gas to heat most homes in the local area.
"Lots of new homes have been built in this area and our recent forecasting and analysis is causing us concern – we are worried that we won’t be able to meet the demand for much longer.
"This could result in customers not having the gas they need to heat their homes. So we have to act now."
The work will be carried out in four phases, with Phase One starting this week to lay new pipes at the side of the roundabout where Tom Benson Way meets Tag Lane.
This phase will last around two weeks and will have minimal impact on the carriageway, so traffic will continue to flow in all directions.
Phase Two will affect the roundabout at Lightfoot Lane just after Preston Grasshoppers Rugby Club heading towards Preston. This work will be done next week during the October half-term holiday.
Cadent will be bringing in specialist teams and machinery to drill 100 metres directly under the roundabout, so the road will be kept open, but traffic lights will manage the flow of vehicles. Drivers are advised to budget for a delay in their journey.
Phase Three will start on November 1 and last around a week. 100 metres of new pipes will be laid under a section of Lightfoot Lane, near to the junction with The Maples. Again temporary lights will operate.
And Phase Four, the biggest part of the scheme, will start on November 8 and continue through to January or February. This will involve laying a kilometre of new pipes, in short segments, along both Lightfoot Lane and Tom Benson Way.
As each segment is completed the road surface will be reinstated immediately. Temporary lights will be installed throughout the period of work.
The Cadent spokesperson explained: "We need to install over 1,200 metres of new pipes and associated assets, to ensure pressures and the volume of gas flowing is sufficient to meet demand.
"We know this is a very busy road. We have been working with Lancashire County Council’s highways team on a four-phase plan that gets the work done and keep the roads open. Safety of everyone concerned is our first and absolute priority.
"Gas will continue to flow during the work. Your supply should not be impacted."
The company says the work is needed urgently to boost Preston’s gas network and remove concerns about gas supply to thousands of homes.
"Significant recent development in areas north of the city, around the Fulwood, Ingol and Cottam areas, has put a huge strain on existing gas infrastructure," said the spokesperson.
Cadent, which manages Lancashire’s gas distribution network, says it has flagged up that this continued, fast growth is now putting ongoing reliable supply at risk. And with more than 83 per cent of homes using gas for central heating, it needs to act now.
Engineers will work seven days a week on the project, while advice will be taken from environmental health officials about hours of work – given there are residential developments nearby and the work, at times, will be noisy.
Craig Horrocks, the company's head of investment planning in the North West, said: “This is essential and necessary work, to keep people warm in their homes.
"We hope you understand we are doing everything we can to complete the work as fast but as safely as possible, using techniques - such as drilling under the roundabout – that enables traffic to continue to flow, albeit with traffic lights in place.
“We’re liaising with organisations in the area, to try and avoid clashes with events where we can. For example, we’re working with Preston Grasshoppers to aim to be off-site – with no traffic lights – when its bonfire night event takes place there.
"At the request of the local authority, we also plan to stand-down for a couple of weeks during the build-up to Christmas.”
A website – www.cadentgas.com/preston - includes maps and other information on the project. Updates will be added, particularly as each stage is completed.