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Utilities

High Wire Act

An essential infrastructure upgrade to the high voltage transmission line between Beauly near Inverness and Denny near Falkirk has meant that Pirtek Inverness MSST Gregory Gavin has become an expert in cross-country orienteering.

The project involves replacing the existing 132 kV overhead transmission line with a 400kV transmission line. SP Energy Networks has been granted planning permission to upgrade a 21 km section of the 220 km line which will become one of the biggest construction projects to take place in the UK in recent years, and will include 600 new pylons, some more than 60 metres high.

Balfour Beatty has been contracted to steel strengthen the existing pylons which will take the new heavier conductors and cables, while a separate unit is preparing the foundations for the new pylons. One section - the Knocknagel to Black hillock 275Kv overhead line project - required a little help from Pirtek Inverness recently, as Gregory discovered after he received a late night call from Balfour Beatty foreman Roddy McCormick.

“I'll meet you in Forres High Street tomorrow morning at 8.30," he laughed, “I'll lead you to the site, as you'll never find the one we're working on.” True to his word, the pair met up on schedule the next morning and headed off onto the moors to sort out a Loglogic ATV002 Softrack vehicle.

McCormick explained that they stated the project in 2010 and after three years they had completed 180 tower modifications, had now reached Dallas and they had a further two years of work left in their section. Although they were working in some of the most jaw droppingly beautiful countryside, McCormick explained that many of the sites could only be accessed after the utility company had created a network of access roads across private land. Even then, they still needed an all terrain vehicle to get to many of the sites, hence the Softrack. Unfortunately said vehicle appeared to have developed a leak and was now immobilised and devoid of hydraulic oil. The site turned out to be 15 kilometres from Forres, almost 10 kilometres of that on single track road and three that would optimistically described as dirt track. Taking a 2.5 tonne fully loaded service van along such terrain was no easy task. The actual work site was a further 30 minutes away but was impassable to normal vehicles and the Softrack was the only way to get equipment to the site. Gavin examined the Softrack and found nothing obvious, which meant jacking up and securing the tipper back to get a closer look at the hydraulics. After close examination, he found a loose hose which was tightened and the oil system refilled. This was done slowly to ensure there were no air bubbles and eventually the Softrack was replenished, taken for a test drive and rechecked. The vehicle was passed fit for use and a happy Roddy McCormick commented: “”I'm always happy with Paul's work. He's a real problem solver. I don't know what we would have done without his help on the Softrack.” To Gregory Gavin it was all in a day’s work: “This week I have worked on oil rigs at Thurso, cranes at

Invergordon, a loading shovel at Gairlock and on windfarms scattered across the Scottish countryside,” he concludes. “It is a job I love. Not only do I get a chance get people on the move again, but I can build some good relationships with the community here.”

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