The heart of London’s entertainment district is to receive a £16.2 million upgrade to ensure safe and reliable power supplies for years to come.

Engineers from UK Power Networks are set to upgrade an electricity substation hidden beneath the gardens and iconic ticket office at the London landmark, replacing three large pieces of equipment in over the next two years.

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The underground substation was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1991, as state-of-the-art for the time and housing three large transformers – devices which step down the power voltage so electricity can be safely delivered to local properties – over three levels of underground chambers.

After regularly maintaining the infrastructure for three decades, UK Power Networks has now drawn up plans in consultation with the Westminster City Council, as well as local business and community groups, to replace the vital infrastructure so it’s fit to support the local economy and businesses in the area for years to come. The project starts today and will last for two years.

Liam O’Sullivan, head of programme management and delivery at UK Power Networks, said: “We are committed to running safe and reliable power supplies across London and this work is essential to preserve the future resilience of local power supplies to help the area thrive.

“We have been and continue to engage in discussions with people who may be impacted by our work to make sure they are aware what’s needed for the community, why and when. Our local community energy scheme ‘Smart Communities’ is designed to bring meaningful public engagement to infrastructure projects, so we put people at the heart of the energy system, giving them the power to feed into plans and gain an insight into what happens behind the scenes to keep London powered, encourage innovation, build resilience and create a sustainable future.

“We will do everything we can to minimise any disruption to peoples’ lives and facilities. This specific upgrade will not interrupt supplies in the area, or damage the local environment but we would like to inform members of the public and businesses that there will some temporary hoardings, safety barriers and activity on the south side of the square.”

The work will require approximately a third of the square to be cordoned off for safety and access reasons. A special type of crane assembly will be used to remove the old transformers and install the new ones in place. The transformers are the approximate size of a shipping container. In addition, they will be cleaner and greener than the current units which were installed in 1991 and will reduce carbon emissions.

UK Power Networks delivers electricity to 2.3 million London properties including homes, businesses, schools and hospitals. With more than 10 million people due to be living in London by 2030, the firm is making sure the electricity network is ready for the future.

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