POWER chiefs are celebrating the completion of a £32m improvement project which aims to safeguard electricity supplies to homes and businesses across the south.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has upgraded the network in Hampshire, Dorset and neighbouring counties by replacing poles and conductors as well as plant such as sub-stations and underground link boxes.

New automation systems have been installed and some sections of overhead line have been moved underground.

SSEN says the changes will improve the resilience of the power supply to customers and enable businesses and residential areas to expand to meet the community’s needs.

A spokesman said: "Network reliability is a key priority for SSEN and the customers its serves.

"Following a series of engagements with its customers SSEN took the decision to make the multimillion-pound investment to further improve network resilience, and future-proof its infrastructure for customer’s changing demands.

"This is part of SSEN’s commitment to taking a 'you said, we did' approach to investing in its vital infrastructure."

Jo Niven, head of SSEN's Wessex region, added: "As a responsible network operator, SSEN makes a commitment to our customers to do all we can to keep the lights on 24/7.

"By completing over £32m of works across Wessex in the last three years, we are reinforcing that commitment to the residents and businesses across the region who rely on us to power their day.

“The three-year programme marks a significant investment in an area which has differing needs across its rural and urban environments. SSEN embarked on these works to strengthen the power supplies to homes, businesses and communities in Wessex."

Julian Lewis, Tory MP for New Forest East, was briefed on the improvements during a visit to SSEN's depot at Castle Malwood, Minstead.

Dr Lewis said: “I’m greatly encouraged to see the level of investment being made in the electricity infrastructure that powers the homes and businesses of my constituents.

"With three years of works completed, SSEN is providing Wessex with a power supply fit for the future and whatever changes may come to the region as it grows and develops in the years ahead.”

The work included a £5m project to reinforce the 33kV infrastructure in the Bishopstoke and Netley Common area.

Engineers also refurbished the 132kV overhead lines between Poole and Winfrith Heath as well as rebuilding the 33kV overhead line towers between Chickerell and Winterbourne Abbass.

SSEN says all the projects were completed on time and on budget.