GDSP Contract North West - National Grid

At the end of 2012, National Grid awarded Balfour Beatty two eight year Gas Distribution Strategic Partnership (GDSP) contracts, running from 1st April 2013. The new partnerships, valued at £1.2 billion, saw Balfour Beatty continue to operate in the North West of England and also commence Gas Operations in the West Midlands region.

Customer Name

Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions Limited

The contracts involved the design and installation of modern polyethylene gas distribution mains to replace aging metal pipes as part of a programme of work agreed between National Grid and the Health & Safety Executive. Work includes pipe replacement, connections, diversions, reinforcements, other capital asset replacement activities and resource provision.

The contract is focused on the replacement of tier 1 pipe size which is up to 8” metallic pipe. This meant that the majority of the work was in residential areas where minimal road widths, footpaths and space restrictions are a day to day occurrence.

National Grid challenged all of their partners with innovative ways of working, improving customer service, reduction or elimination of turning the customers gas off and reducing road closures. Along with the issues around space there was also a need to proactively reduce cable strikes. This would require a dramatic reduction in the use of mechanical excavation (using Mini Diggers) and the traditional alternative which is hand digging. This was not practical due to the increased safety risks, the extra physical effort required by the operatives and the time restrictions involved in carrying out this activity for the customer.

The iVac was introduced to offer a solution for suction excavation in confined and built up areas. The unit has been designed to offer the client similar power outputs to the lorry based product shown but in a significantly smaller footprint. The product is supplied with a trailer as it was important that it could be transported easily by existing site operatives behind their vehicles to maximise efficiency around the network.

The iVac removes the requirement for mechanically digging in the footpath or confined areas and reduces the possibility of cable strikes. It utilises compressed air through an air lance to loosen the soil around the existing services within the excavation (eliminating the need to hand dig), before the vacuum/suction process ensures a safe and effective earth removal solution. A bag collection system is also available to allow the spoil to be tipped into cubic metre bags, meaning the equipment was more efficient as it did not have to leave site to tip, the site was tidy improving the customer experience and there was less damage to existing surfaces from bucket scrapes. The unit also operates as “Plant” so benefits from utilising Red Diesel (cheaper fuel) and the overall running costs as no commercial vehicles are involved.

BBUS utilises the product daily on a number of projects across the North West improving the efficiency and safety on site and offering a smarter solution to the customer. They have been able to demonstrate that improved customer service and safety can and should work hand in hand whilst offering their client National Grid a viable alternative to mechanical digging. Training continues to be rolled out across the contract as demand increases and further opportunities are found for the product. 

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