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Government working on digital map of underground pipes and cables

The Government has announced that its Geospatial Commission is working to bring together the existing data on underground pipes and cables to create a digital map.

Northumbrian Water CEO Heidi Mottram hosted a visit to see the work that is taking place in SunderlandNorthumbrian Water CEO Heidi Mottram hosted a visit to see the work that is taking place in Sunderland

The Underground Asset Register, which will show the location of gas and water pipes as well as electricity and phone cables, is designed to prevent both accidents and disruption to the economy.

There is currently no comprehensive underground map of the UK’s service network. Different organisations have their own maps showing the location of underground assets, but the lack of a combined map creates an increased risk of potentially lethal accidents, while it is estimated that the cost of utility strikes to the UK economy is £1.2 billion a year. 

To test the feasibility of the concept, £3.9 million pilot projects are underway in London and the North East, where Northumbrian Water has been working alongside Ordnance Survey.

Minister for Implementation Oliver Dowden visited Sunderland to see the work that is underway to map the network and allow workers to locate pipes and cables on mobile phones or laptops before they start a dig.

"When workers strike pipes and cables, it risks lives, costs money and causes havoc for residents and road users," he said. "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."

The project in the North East has been led by Ordnance Survey, which has worked with Northumbrian Water, Northern Gas Networks, Northern Powergrid and Openreach.

In London, work going forward will be led by the Greater London Authority, which is working closely with infrastructure providers and local authorities.

David Henderson, the managing director of Ordnance Survey Great Britain, said: "The creation of an underground map of utility assets has long been an ambition of Ordnance Survey. And over the last year we have been working closely with Northumbrian Water and a consortia of utility companies and local authorities in the North East of England to explore how accurate geospatial data can improve underground infrastructure maintenance and inform new-build development projects.

"The investment being made by the Geospatial Commission will ultimately enable the utility industry to more efficiently access, use and share data describing otherwise hidden infrastructure, thereby reducing operational costs, minimising disruption and accelerating completion of site works."

Northumbrian Water CEO Heidi Mottram, who hosted the visit, said: "We are delighted to host the Minister for Implementation today to demonstrate the progress we have made since our Innovation Festival last year, when we first started exploring this idea.

"Working alongside local authorities, other utility services and partners has meant that we are off to a good start in mapping Sunderland’s underground. We are looking forward to working with government and others to showcase the powers of data sharing for public good."

Author: Robin Hackett, editor, WWT
Topic: Contractors , Pipes & Pipelines
Tags: utility strikes , government , Northumbrian Water , Pipes , economy

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