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Access All Areas: BBC Essex’s Ronnie Barbour visits our training centre

Posted on 14 September 2016 04:24 PM by

Ronnie Barbour, currently presenting the morning show on BBC Essex, visited UK Power Networks training centre in Risby, Suffolk, to learn a bit more about the training our engineers go through and how we fix faults on the network.

His efforts are being broadcast on BBC Essex today. Here is how he got on:

Current Affairs

The phone rang.

Ronnie, it's Stuart…
Listen UK Power Networks have given us a great opportunity.
We can go along and record a day at their training centre. Full access.
You'll get to climb the poles…fix some faults. It'll be great…How do you feel about doing that?
I mean…say no if you don't want to but we'll get some great audio…and you said you wanted to do some challenging things.
How high are the poles?
Not high and you'll be fully supervised…
Are you doing it?
No, I'll film it.
Great…I'll tell them yes.

At this point let me just say that I have a fear of heights and hard hats…It's a long story but suffice to say that when I climb a ladder my legs clatter so much they register 8.9 on the richter scale. But I decided I had to do this for the greater good and I've always told the listeners I'm a rugged outdoor kind of guy. A Scottish Bear Grylls. And I've done many radio phone-ins when the power goes off that I was actually intrigued to find out what went on when a fault needed fixing.

We were greeted onsite by centre manager Colin Davey and Lynne Smith, the training centre supervisor who reassured us that it would be a very safe environment though the overalls might not be particularly fashionable. Both of the assertions proved to be true.

Our safety briefing completed we were onto our first session under the direction of Mike and Les who had the dubious honour of fitting me with a harness. It was awkward but Les assured me the harness would keep me safe so like men we conquered the moment and moved on. These guys handled the overhead lines training. So my first ever ascent in a cherry-picker was a pre-requisite…Mike tethered me to the platform while I tried to interview him on the way up, suffice to say Mike's answers were longer than my questions. But we did it… And then came the pole climbing…I was kitted out with spikes and more harnesses…now I'd like to say that my athletic ability is renowned but on this occasion it sadly left me stranded at the bottom of the pole after an amazing cat-like demonstration by Les. I don't know who was the most relieved after this session ended, me or the guys.

Then it was Richard and Steve's turn …Operational and Jointing… finding the fault in the line and fixing it. It's very easy to forget that in midst of a power cut that it's not just locating the fault and fixing it; it's also about doing it in a safe environment. I had a go at switching off the power on an overhead line which was like threading a needle with a pole vault pole that had a mind of its own. And let me just say this was done in perfect weather conditions, heavens knows what it's like when there's horizontal snow and a force 8 gale! Inside the training centre we were shown what happens back at base and I'd love to describe in detail the equipment and the technical specs but it would probably blow your mind and to be honest I can't quite remember it! But I was fascinated by the technology needed to ensure we get our kettles boiled, and how UK Power Networks have to constantly update their equipment as new technical developments come online…Oh and I got to shout "Fire in the hole!"…

So a great day and thanks to the fantastic team at UK Power Networks for their hospitality and patience. I can promise you that the next time we have a power cut I will remember this day and will hopefully give my listeners a better idea of what's going on behind the scenes to get our power back on. More power to you guys!

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