Repair is Water Under the Bridge for Specialist Team

04 May 2020
Abseiling from Kessock Bridge to repair water main, with boat on standby 30 metres below
Work underway below the Kessock Bridge to repair a leak on a key water main
A member of the team from ALPS working below the Kessock Bridge to repair a water main

Abseil team completes essential repair

Specialist contractors have repaired a leak on a key water main below the Kessock Bridge, north of Inverness

A specialist team has completed a nerve-wracking repair to a vital water main that runs beneath the Kessock Bridge, north of Inverness.  

The work carried out for Scottish Water by contractor Access, Lifting, Pulling and Safety (ALPS) means that the 200mm trunk main, which had sprung a leak, is now back in action transporting clear, fresh and great-tasting drinking water across the Beauly Firth to customers in the village of North Kessock and beyond.  

In order to fit a clamp to the water main and return it to service, 2 members of the ALPS team had to abseil over the side of the bridge and cross below its deck, around 30 metres above the firth. Their work is carried out under guidelines put in place by the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA).  

Scottish Water's Water Response team organised and coordinated the repair. Team Manager Colin Green says: "Our team repairs water mains every week of the year, but this is a part of the north's water network unlike any other.  

"It's vital that we were able to get this essential repair completed, restoring the normal water supply and resilience to our customers in this part of the Black Isle.  

"The team from ALPS did a great job, supported by BEAR Scotland and the standby boat from Caley Marina. A huge amount of care is always involved in jobs like this, but the current public health situation adds a whole range of extra considerations. The support of our partners and our supply chain means we can keep the Highlands' water flowing, while protecting the health of our team and local communities."  

Bruce Farrell of ALPS was one of the team who carried out the abseil and the repair.  Now based in Inverness, Bruce grew up in Glencoe where he gained a head for heights and early experience working with ropes.   

Bruce says: "It's not for everyone – some days it’s the best office in the world, but not always. I’ve carried out a lot of work on the Kessock Bridge in recent years, so I know it really well. We’re a close-knit team, so you have a lot of confidence in the people supporting you and the way everything is being done.  

"People often ask if you get a chance to enjoy the view on a sunny day, but you spend most of the time beneath the road so you don’t see much of the sunshine. You see the bridge in a completely different way – it's an amazing structure, designed to withstand potential earthquakes on the Great Glen Fault.  

“Like everyone, we have to take a lot of extra steps at the moment to enable us to work while minimising the risk of spreading the coronavirus. The whole team was carefully selected based on skillset and proximity to the job, avoiding the need for long journeys or hotel stays. It was a long hard day, but I love it – and it’s good to go home knowing you’ve got an important job done that helps to keep everyone’s water flowing.”  

While the water main across the Kessock Bridge was out of service, customers on the north side of the firth were kept supplied with water from Assynt Water Treatment Works, near Evanton, via the Black Isle water network.