Under-fire pylon firms respond to public anger

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The Argyllshire Advertiser’s May 1 front page story about public concern over workers on the Inveraray-Crossaig power line project potentially risking coronavirus spread prompted a number of readers to get in touch, with frustration and anger evident.

Claims by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) and its contractor Balfour Beatty in the article that strict COVID-19 procedures were being followed were cast into doubt by locals, unhappy that workers continue to travel home across the UK on days off and return to mix with communities. There are also stories of social distancing rules being ignored – more on this on our letters pages.

These concerns – plus more recent public complaints about contractors setting up camp near Ford village and staying in Inveraray – were put to SSEN and Balfour Beatty by the Advertiser.

This is their response:

A statement from Keith Inglis, project director for SSEN Transmission on the Inveraray-Crossaig power line upgrade

‘We and Balfour Beatty would again like to assure community members that the safety of our people, contractors and the communities in which we operate is paramount in everything we do, particularly in these challenging times.

‘We remain fully committed to work with the local community to help address any concerns where we can, whilst we continue to safely deliver this critical asset replacement, essential to maintaining local security of supply.

‘This asset is defined by government as critical national infrastructure, with its replacement deemed essential in line with the latest government coronavirus guidance. In the last year, five faults have occurred on the two transmission circuits the existing overhead tower line carries. Two of these faults occurred in the past week.  Had faults occurred on both circuits at the same time, as happened in March 2013 following the collapse of several towers in Kintyre, customer supplies in the area would have been interrupted, demonstrating the criticality of these works.

‘In response to COVID-19, we have introduced additional measures intended to help reduce the interaction between workers and the community, particularly in local shops.

‘This includes on-site catering, which will now see the vast majority of workers provided with breakfast, lunch and an evening meal, introduced on Monday May 4. We have also increased the number of temporary accommodation pods on site, again helping reduce the presence of workers in the community.

‘We continue to remind all workers of their responsibilities to adhere to government guidance and social distancing when they are in the community and if there are examples of where this is not being followed when workers are using local services, please let us know directly by emailing Kelly.Scott@sse.com.

‘We would please ask that specific details are provided (including dates, times and locations) to allow us to fully investigate any claims and to allow appropriate action to be taken, where required.’