Research and design helps firm win order

A boring machine at work in National Grid's London Power Tunnels project
A boring machine at work in National Grid's London Power Tunnels project

Manufacturing firm Ellis has won its biggest ever order after securing a £1.5 million contract with the National Grid for the London Power Tunnels project.

Cable saddles, manufactured by Ellis at its factory in Rillington, will be used in more than 30km of tunnels carrying high voltage cables between substations in Wimbledon, Hackney, Willesden and St John’s Wood.

The order was secured on the back of recent work for National Grid and the fact Ellis was able to prove the suitability and safety of its product for the project’s specification.

Richard Shaw, managing director of Ellis, said: “This order has given us dual cause for celebration. Firstly, it’s the largest the company has ever won and secondly it demonstrates why we place so much emphasis on research and development.”

Ellis’s cable saddles, which were developed specifically for use with high voltage cables, were specified by the German manufacturers of the cables being used in the National Grid tunnels.

The heavy-duty extruded aluminium saddle cleats, named Centaur, were launched by Ellis in 2008 after being designed and developed in-house in response to a serious safety issue surrounding the restraint of high voltage cables up to 400kV with a diameter range of 100 to 160mm.

Mr Shaw said: “At the time neither the British nor European Standards took into account cleats on cables of this size. This meant those specifying for such jobs were very much in the hands of the manufacturers, who in most cases simply provided warranties for their products.

“The problem with this was that none of the products available had been short circuit tested, and so the warranties were based purely on calculations and mechanical tests. As such there was no proof the saddle cleats being used would withstand the most testing elements of the job they’d been bought for.”

Prior to launching the cable saddle, Ellis put the product through rigorous testing procedure. The company shipped the saddles and cables to the Netherlands for high voltage testing.

Managing director Richard Shaw said: “We invested well over £100,000 in designing, developing, testing and bringing the product to the market. This was the largest amount we’d ever invested in one new product, but we did so with confidence that it had the potential to solve a major safety issue and fill a gap in a growing market - something that proved correct.”

The National Grid’s project has been designed to ensure Londoners enjoy safe and reliable electricity supplies.