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Engineers drill under the River Orwell in a £30 million scheme to boost power supplies

Expert engineers have begun drilling under the River Orwell in the latest phase of a multi-million scheme to boost power supplies to south Suffolk and north Essex.

From Press releases - 18 July 2017 12:00 AM

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A directional drill is being used to bore underneath the Orwell from the nature reserve at Trimley alongside the Port of Felixstowe to the Shotley peninsula more than one kilometre away.

Once the drilling process is completed under the Orwell, the specialist team from Holland will then move to the Shotley peninsula to start drilling under the River Stour across to Harwich.

The work, which is part of a £30m scheme by UK Power Networks to boost power supplies to Felixstowe, Shotley and Harwich, includes:

• directional drilling under the rivers Orwell and Stour – a distance of 1.1km and 1.7km respectively – effectively linking the peninsulas together
• 12km of 33kV cable then laid between Felixstowe, Shotley and Harwich
• two circuits of 16km of 132,000-volt cable laid between Ipswich and Felixstowe
• two circuits of 10.5km of 33,000-volt cable laid between Nacton and Felixstowe
• new equipment installed near Levington to improve reliability of supplies to the Martlesham area
• the removal of 21km of overhead lines, which will improve the appearance of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Special Protection Areas along the rivers and coastline.

Project manager Chris Sugars said: “It’s quite rare for electricity companies to drill under two major rivers so we have brought in expert engineers from the Netherlands to carry out this specialist work beneath the River Orwell and then under the River Stour

“This is a challenging and complex project which will increase the capacity to the area and meet its growing demands of our 45,000 customers for decades to come.

The drilling aspect of the scheme is expected to be completed by November. Both the drilling sites at Trimley and Shotley will be restored to how they were before plus additional enhancements – for example, soil from the under the river bed will be used to build up a bank between the reserve and the port to help shield it from the noise.

The entire project is due to be completed at the end of 2018.

Once the new electricity cables are connected and electricity is flowing through them, more than 20 kilometres of overhead power lines will be removed from the scenic landscape along the River Orwell, so improving the appearance of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Special Protection Areas along the rivers and coastline.

Archaeological work ahead of the trenches being dug have unearthed a number of interesting finds including early Bronze Age round barrows, the foundations of an Iron Age round house and remnants of a Roman settlement.