The Cabinet Office and Geospatial Commission have announced that a digital map of underground pipes and cables is to be created, to help save lives and reduce the disruption caused when they are struck by mistake.
It is estimated that the cost of accidental strikes on underground pipes and cables is £1.2 billion a year to the UK’s economy. Workers who hit gas and electric pipes by mistake can also put themselves in danger of death or serious injury.
To help prevent such accidents, the Government’s Geospatial Commission has announced its ambition to bring together the existing data on underground pipes and cables to create an Underground Assets Register. This has begun with pilot projects in London and the North East, to test the feasibility of the project.
Minister for Implementation Oliver Dowden MP visited Sunderland to see the work which is already underway to map the area’s underground network. Commenting, he said: “When workers strike pipes and cables, it risks lives, costs money and causes havoc for residents and road-users.
“Our investment in this cutting-edge underground map is just one way that the Government is working smarter, so that we really make a difference to people’s everyday lives.”
There is currently no comprehensive underground map of the UK’s service network. Different organisations have their own maps showing where such things as gas pipes and electricity cables are, but the lack of a combined map creates an increased risk of potentially lethal accidents.
Work to tackle the problem has so far seen working prototypes created in Sunderland and London. This allows workers to see underground pipes and cables on mobile phones or laptop computers before they start a dig.
In the North East, the project has been led by Ordnance Survey, who have worked with Northumbrian Water, Northern Gas Networks, Northern Powergrid, and Openreach. In London, work going forward will be led by the Greater London Authority, who are working closely with infrastructure providers and local authorities.
If you are a CECA member and would like more information on CECA’s work to minimise service strikes, including details of CECA’s ‘mock’ trials on the topic, contact CECA Civil Engineering Director Peter Crosland.