Cabinet Minister Visits London Power Tunnels

14 January 2014

Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, recently visited the Eade Road site of National Grid’s London Power Tunnels (LPT) - a Costain project - and saw first-hand how investment in UK infrastructure is helping to meet future electricity demand in London.

National Grid’s Chief Executive Steve Holliday, David Luetchford, National Grid’s Head of Cable Tunnels and Costain’s Andrew Firth, escorted Danny Alexander around the site in north London, which included a trip down a 40 meter shaft to see how the tunnels are taking shape.

“This enormously impressive project is yet more evidence that we are rebuilding Britain. Tunnelling under London in a very confined space to bring the power that London needs to secure the next part of our capital city’s growth,” Alexander said.

National Grid started the seven-year project in February 2011 to ensure that Londoners continue to receive safe and reliable electricity supplies and can access new sources of renewable energy.

Costain is responsible for the £250 million civils work on the project which includes the construction of 32 kilometres of 4.0mID and 3.0mID tunnels, 14 shafts, four connecting tunnels and associated underground chambers. The tunnels will house a new generation of 400kV electricity cabling as part of a “subterranean electricity superhighway” for London. A tunnel will run from Willesden in the west of the capital via Kensal Green to Hackney in the east. From Kensal Green, another tunnel will be driven south to Wimbledon.

The tunnels are being constructed using a 4.0mID Herrenknecht earth pressure balance (EPB) tunnel boring machine (TBM) and a 3.0mID CAT (Lovat) dual mode TBM from Canada, called Cleopatra and Evelyn respectively. So far the team has completed 20km of tunnels, with tunnelling work due for completion in 2014 and power in all of the new cables expected to be brought online by November 2018.

The cabinet minister’s visit coincided with an announcement that British insurers plan to invest £25 billion in transport and energy projects over the next five years. Speaking at the Eade Road site, Alexander said the £25 billion investment from insurance companies into British infrastructure projects was a massive vote of confidence in UK infrastructure.

“Projects like this show how much can be achieved for the United Kingdom by good quality infrastructure. That’s why we’ve made it a priority to have a National Infrastructure Plan and deliver on that plan as effectively as possible, to get the finance for that plan with another £25 billion from the insurance sector. That’s the vote of confidence we need to take forward our country’s infrastructure in future,” Alexander said.

The Government plans to invest £100 billion in national infrastructure projects over the next seven years. Asked what impact the investment will have on the economy, Alexander said: “What infrastructure is really about is having the facilities to get people to work, to get goods to market, to get power to where it’s needed and communications to where they are needed and it is something as a country we have under invested for a long period of time.”

Commenting on the site visit, Costain’s Andrew Firth, said: “This was a great opportunity for Mr. Alexander to see for himself how London’s infrastructure is taking shape and how Costain is working with National Grid to help meet the national need for vital infrastructure.”