THE electricity grid around Oxford has been boosted by £8.8million improvements to stop winter weather cutting power to homes.

Southern Electric Power Distribution (SEPD) has spent the cash as part of a £330 million project across central and southern England.

Stronger overhead cables and hi-tech equipment to switch electricity supplies in a power cut, reducing the number of homes hit by black-outs, have been installed.

Thousands of homes have been hit by power cuts in Oxfordshire this year, with more than 1,000 affected during December alone.

About 230 homes in Abingdon lost power after a fault with the underground network on December 13.

A further 800 homes in Oxford were hit after a cable fault on December 8; 35 homes in Oxford lost power after a fuse blew in a link box on December 4 and Oxford Brookes’s Wheatley campus lost power on December 3 after a fault in the cable network.

Engineers based in Yarnton have spent the last few months working to prevent bad weather hitting homes around the city.

Yarnton depot operations manager Graham Street said: “Our teams have been out checking our equipment at key substations around the county and patrolling our overhead power lines to make sure they are as reliable and secure as possible.

“We have weather monitoring systems that allow us to plan five or six days ahead so we can be ready for severe weather.

“This means it is far easier for us to mobilise crews, materials and equipment as quickly as possible.

“We have even kitted out our 4x4 vehicles with ‘snow socks’ for their tyres so they can get out and about no matter how harsh the conditions.”

Other work has included a £22,500 refurbishment of a key substation near Milton and purchasing three 4x4 vehicles, an all terrain truck with a ‘cherry picker’ platform and six mobile generators that can be connected up to supply homes.

The money has also installed stronger overhead cables in Finstock, Middle Barton, Fifield, Benson, Kidlington and North Hinksey.

SEPD director of distribution Stuart Hogarth said: “This new investment work in the area will mean our network is even more robust. If there is a power cut, supplies in these areas will be restored more quickly as a result of this investment.”

Colin Cook, Oxford City Council executive board member for city development, said: “It is good to see them investing in infrastructure.

“Clearly we are experiencing more severe weather and can probably expect to experience more severe weather in the future, so we need to build in more reliance.”

Contact Southern Electric Power Distribution in a power cut at the emergency number 08000 72 72 82.