Local MP is impressed with SSEN's £2m network upgrade project

Damian Hinds MP has visited Petersfield to meet the team behind Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks’ (SSEN) £2m upgrade to the town’s electricity network, and also to learn more about the specially designed barriers which are helping keep blind and visually-impaired customers safe around the workzones.

Giving an overview of the project, Chris Slingsby, SSEN’s Head of Customer Operations for the South East Region explained how the company is currently installing new low voltage underground cables in and around Petersfield town centre. When completed, this work will make the local network more robust and resilient, and also go a long way to minimising the risk of powercuts. The £2m project started in March and is expected to take 20 weeks to complete.

With the new cable being laid in trenches, it is imperative that members of the public are kept safe throughout the project, and so to help ensure that blind and visually-impaired people do not get too close to the work areas, SSEN is using new state-of-the-art Smart Barriers for the first time.

Designed and made in Britain by Cusacks, these barriers are designed to alert people with sight difficulties to their location by way of a phone app called Streetworks. This free-to-download app picks up the position of the barriers via GPS satellite tracking. Once the phone recognises their location, it will emit different sounding ‘pings’ at the start and end of the barriers, helping keep the customers safe and letting them know which way they should go. The colour-scheme is also designed to be easier to distinguish by partially-sighted people, as well as guide dogs.

As well as learning more about the work that is currently taking place in Petersfield, Mr Hinds also met two of SSEN’s locally-based Customer and Community Advisors (CCAs), Holly Hooper and Mark Taylor.  The CCAs explained the various types of help and support they can offer on the rare occasions that the power is off, including a short guide to what is inside the region’s welfare vans, which can provide customers with hot food, drinks and mobile-phone charging during a power cut.

Speaking after his visit, Damian Hinds MP said: “It is good to see the investments being made by SSEN in electricity services across the town centre, helping to secure power supplies for local businesses and residents.  I was pleased to hear that there is an emphasis on minimising disruption to traders during the upgrade works. Also interesting to see the new Smart Barriers in action, and the efforts being made to minimise the risks for blind and visually-impaired people.”