A MAJOR project to upgrade a gas main that runs unseen underneath a road in Northwich town centre, carrying gas to heat thousands of homes, is due to start early in October.

Installed over eight decades ago, the cast iron pipe is reaching the natural end of its working life and now needs to be replaced. Eighteen inches in diameter, it is as wide as a car tyre.

Upgrading to a new durable plastic pipe helps get the gas network ready to carry greener gases, such as biomethane and hydrogen – seen as essential to the UK achieving a net zero energy future.

Local gas network Cadent has commissioned a team of engineers to begin this £75,000 project on October 4, with the aim to be all complete and be off-site by October 16.

The work is taking place in Chesterway and Percy Street and for the duration, there will be no entry from Chesterway to Percy Street, and vice versa. A short diversion will be signposted.

Chesterway – a carriageway which has two lanes in both directions at this section – stays open both ways, with a reduction from two lanes to one for a short distance (westbound only).

It is part of a programme of works which sees around 300 miles of Cadent’s 21,000-mile network of North West gas mains upgraded each year, to maintain a safe and reliable gas supply.

Around 83 per cent of homes in the local area rely on gas for central heating, as do schools, offices, hospitals and other buildings. This new pipe will have a lifespan of at least 80 years.

Craig Horrocks, who heads Cadent’s mains replacement programme in the North West, said: "It’s our job to distribute gas to thousands of homes and other buildings across Cheshire and beyond.

"We’re upgrading our older pipes so that we can confidently do that for many years to come, in ever greener ways."

There should be no interruption to gas supplies in the wider area while the work is carried out, except for 22 properties that take a direct feed off this gas main.

These properties are aware they will lose supply temporarily and will be back on gas the same day they go off. Customer teams have been actively liaising with customers in the local area about the plans for several weeks.

Cadent manages 21,000 miles of gas mains and hundreds of above ground stations that distribute gas to more than 2.7 million homes across North West England.

If placed end to end, that amount of pipes would run from Cheshire all the way to Sydney, and back again.

Every year, it upgrades more than 300 miles of pipes in the North West, as they reach the end of their safe working lives.

This huge, mostly unseen network carries gas that helps heat around 83 per cent of all UK homes, as well as supplying schools, offices, businesses, industry, and fuelling HGVs.

Gas has been a feature of the UK energy system for over 200 years, with a long future ahead.

Plans are advanced to introduce green gases like hydrogen to the gas network in North West England soon, playing a big role in the UK journey to net zero.

Unlike methane, (the gas mostly used today), there are no carbon emissions from hydrogen at point of use – just heat and water.