Over 1,300 homes and businesses between Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit now have a more reliable electricity supply and are less likely to experience a power cut, following SSEN Distribution’s project to upgrade the existing overhead lines and wooden poles.

This essential programme of works started in the first week of May, on the steep and challenging hillside running alongside the A82 and Loch Ness.

And with the project taking place in a part of the Highlands renowned for its picturesque scenery and popularity with visitors, months of careful planning saw SSEN Distribution working with Forestry and Land Scotland and BEAR Scotland to ensure the work could be carried out safely,  and with minimum impact for the local community and visitors alike.

Also, with part of the route taking in part of the Great Glen Way, great care was taken to ensure that minimal disruption was caused to walkers and visitors by the safety requirements of the project.

The site was already being worked on by Forestry and Land Scotland to remove large trees at risk of being blown over in storms, and SSEN Distribution’s heavy construction team, arborists and foresters all worked together to plan the essential works in detail.

The coordination of work teams and programmes enabled SSEN engineers to complete the project a week ahead of schedule, with traffic management removed and the road returned to normal a few days later.

Ian Allsopp, Forestry and Land Scotland Planning Manager, said:

“Our steep ground programme is a long-term piece of work, and over the years we’ve acquired a good deal of expertise in tackling steep and dangerous sites.

“We were happy to offer advice and assistance in the planning stages, and work with our SSEN partners to integrate two very different work programmes to help ensure that it was completed safely and ahead of schedule.”

The steepness of the landscape around Loch Ness presented its own unique set of challenges for everyone involved in this essential network upgrade project.

With a gradient of 1:1 and slopes of 45 degrees in some places, the transportation of specialist machinery to and from site, as well as the deliveries of new equipment, required months of careful planning to ensure both the safety of staff at all times and also to make sure that there was minimal impact on the beautiful scenery.

A helicopter was used to deliver the new poles and take away the old ones, and then a Spider Digger – a specialist steep-slope excavator with its own inbuilt winch - was used to dig and install the new poles in areas where the hillside was too steep for traditional vehicles.

Paul Phillips, SSEN Distribution’s Project Manager, said:

“The safe and successful completion of the project- ahead of schedule - is testament to the dedication of everyone involved, both before and during the works on site.

“The incredibly steep, tree-lined hillside made this one of the most challenging projects I’ve been involved with in my time with SSEN Distribution, but these same conditions also meant it was one of the most rewarding.

“Everyone working on the project appreciates just how important a safe and secure supply of electricity is for our customers, and this combination of new poles, lines and tree-pruning will mean a stronger, more reliable supply of electricity for many years to come in this beautiful part of the Highlands.”