Craigavon storm troopers on mission

NIE linesmen Stuart Curran, Gary Cairns, Tommy Gribben, Colin Reid, Paul Patton normally based in the Craigavon and Downpatrick areas travelled to Kent to help in the wake of the St Jude storm.
NIE linesmen Stuart Curran, Gary Cairns, Tommy Gribben, Colin Reid, Paul Patton normally based in the Craigavon and Downpatrick areas travelled to Kent to help in the wake of the St Jude storm.

A convoy of specialist ‘storm troopers’ from NIE were tasked to England last week to help out in the aftermath of the St Jude storm.

Overhead line crews, tree cutters, vehicles and equipment set sail for Kent last Tuesday to help rebuild electricity networks in the wake of the storm.

The team of 46 men and 27 vehicles, including linesmen who normally work in the Craigavon and Downpatrick areas, were there to assist with repairing overhead electricity lines brought down by trees and galeforce winds, and to help restore power to the tens of thousands of homes without electricity.

Overhead line crews from Enniskillen, Omagh, Campsie, Downpatrick, Craigavon and Ballymena drove to the Seven Oaks area of England to work alongside local repair teams and colleagues from other parts of the UK.

They travelled with specialised equipment, such as mobile elevation platforms, tree cutting equipment and four wheel drive vehicles.

Sean McLean, NIE overhead lines manager, who accompanied the teams, said it was a case of ‘returning the favour’.

He commented: “In this business we need to respond quickly so it’s good to help out colleagues when we can – it only takes the wind to change for us to have to call in those favours.

“Over the last few years and particularly in the recent March snow storm, we benefitted greatly from help overhead lines crews from Great Britain and Republic of Ireland so we understand the need for mutual aid following this type of weather.

“We were monitoring the storm damage all day on Monday and the worst affected network operator confirmed on Monday evening that they would need our help.

“Then we had to sort out the travel logistics and ensure that we had all the correct equipment packed.

“We didn’t know the full extent of the damage until we arrived and the plan is to stay until the last customer has power restored.”

The NIE crew of storm troopers arrived in Kent late on Tuesday night and started work at first light on Wednesday.