Ferrybridge C Power Station - Through the decades (1966 - 2016)

Ferrybridge C Power Station has produced electricity for over half a century since it first started to generate in 1966. Here we look back on 50 proud years of service.

Construction of Ferrybridge ‘C’ began in 1961 at a time of rapid growth in the British electricity supply industry.

26 February 1966 saw Unit 1, the world’s first 500MW ‘single line’ turbine generator, connected to a national grid. Units 2, 3 and 4 were all fully commissioned by the end of 1967 reaching full load by the end of May 1968.

By the 1970s Ferrybridge ‘C’ was setting records for its thermal efficiency. In 1973 Unit 2 set a world record by running non-stop for 5,488 hours, generating 2,999 Gigawatt hours (GWh) at an average thermal efficiency of 34.45%.

Staff numbers increased to well over 800 and a nine-hole golf course was opened at the station in October 1976 and, a sign of the times, the annual ‘ladies’ sherry morning’ held before the Christmas lunch was reputed to be a seasonal highlight.

The 1980s proved a decade of change for Ferrybridge. Production touched new heights with a record annual output of 13,110 GWh. The miners’ strike of 1984-85 meant that Ferrybridge’s coal stocks dwindled down to less than three weeks’ supply.

The station also proved an unlikely tourist attraction when it opened its doors to visitors in the 80s, causing traffic jams on to the A1. In 1988 the Conservative government announced plans to privatise the electricity industry and on August 16 1989 Ferrybridge’s new owner was unveiled as PowerGen plc.

The 1990s ushered in a new dawn: 30 March 1990 marked the first day PowerGen plc traded as an independent company following privatisation. Ferrybridge celebrated in typical style by setting a new annual generational record of 14,038 gigawatt hours (GWh).

Ferrybridge even had a mainline diesel locomotive named after it, though it was a surprise when an Inter-City train arrived at the station one day – mistakenly diverted on to the loop by an errant signalman!

In 2001 the New Electricity Trading Arrangements resulted in major changes with regular over-night shutdowns, known as two-shifting with flexibility as well as reliability the new watchwords. 17 December 2002 saw the last ever delivery of coal down the river Aire to the station by barge, something that first came to Ferrybridge back in 1966. Barges could deliver 8,000 tonnes of coal a day to Ferrybridge.

2004 saw the arrival of SSE, then known as Scottish and Southern Energy, as new owners of the station and a period of much needed investment – something that had seemed a long way off a few years earlier.

The 2010s saw Ferrybridge enter its fifth decade of service with the news that a new £300m multifuel site called Ferrybridge Multifuel (FM1) would be built next to the coal station. Opened in 2015 FM1 is capable of generating around 68MW of low carbon electricity from various sources of municipal or commercial waste and waste wood. A second multifuel station is planned for the site, with construction expected later this year.

The Ferrybridge C fire in July 2014 will live long in the memory of many. Thankfully, SSE’s safety procedures stood up to the test with no-one injured in the blaze brought under control by 75 firefighters tackling flames some 30m high.  

Finally in May 2015, after five decades of service and a dramatically changed energy generation landscape, came the news that SSE had taken the difficult decision to close Ferrybridge C by 31st March 2016.

In October 2015 the UK Government announced that all coal-fired stations in the UK would close by 2025. Ferrybridge C can hold its head high after 50 years of distinguished service to the nation.