A SPECIALIST North West team of motorbike-riding rapid-response gas engineers based at Hollinwood is expanding, after a successful trial saw them reach potential emergencies up to 50 per cent faster than in vans.

Cadent, which manages the extensive underground gas mains network and provides the North West’s gas emergency service, has increased the number of motorbikes operating in the region from one to three, and is now expanding the service into new areas.

In addition to the existing team covering Manchester and surrounding towns, new teams – and new bikes – will soon operate from Warrington (covering the Merseyside and Cheshire areas) and from Atherton (to cover Lancashire and northern areas of Greater Manchester).

This helps ensure Cadent meets its commitment to reach potential life and property-saving incidents within an hour of anyone calling the national gas emergency service number 0800 111 999.

The North West team will continue to ride a BMW RT1200 motorbike it had loaned for a trial period last year from Cadent’s North London network.

Two extra motorbikes, both BMW 750GS models, have now arrived to form a fleet of three bikes based in the North West.

When a call is received to the national gas emergency number – which is the number everyone should ring if they smell gas or suspect carbon monoxide – Cadent dispatches one of its van-driving engineers. Cadent is required to get one of its engineers to the scene within an hour (for uncontrolled escapes).

Cadent may also dispatch one of its motorbike riders, particularly if there is any concern that traffic may hinder the van driver’s route.

A trial in Manchester found Cadent’s motorbike team was able to get to some incidents up to 50 per cent faster than vans. The motorbike engineer carries enough tools on the bike to assess the situation and make everything safe.

The decision by Cadent to expand its fleet – it is thought to be the only gas network in the country using motorbikes in this way – comes almost 25 years after it first starting using motorbikes to ensure an effective emergency service during major events in the capital. The bikes played a key role in helping events like the funeral of Princess Diana, for example, go ahead without disruption.

Cadent has also bought two new BMW 750 motorbikes for its London team and an additional motorbike will also operate in its East of England network. The total fleet becomes six bikes within these three gas network areas. Cadent’s North West team also plans to trial electric-powered bikes.

The bikes are specially adapted with amber strobe lights, expandable and removable panniers, satellite navigation and they are clad in Cadent’s distinctive livery.

Justin Ferris, motorbike team leader for the North West, said: “The bikes are a great addition to our fleet and are a valuable support in getting to incidents quickly, to safeguard life and property.

“Gas pipes and appliances operate fine when they’re well maintained and used properly. Most people will rarely need to call us out.

"But on those rare occasions when things go wrong, we’re there to get to you quickly. Our engineers are strategically placed in vans to get to a gas emergency call within an hour but having the bikes there too – particularly at busy times – is a great back-up."

Dominic Stephens, fleet specialist for Cadent, said: “The motorbikes enable our engineers to get to incidents faster but with enough onboard storage capacity to still carry the tools and equipment they need to safeguard life and property.

“They’re especially useful in congested urban areas, as our engineers can filter around through the traffic and get to where they’re needed fast.”