A comprehensive map of underground pipes and cables is being developed by Thames Water and other utilities.
The National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) will pinpoint the location of the one million miles of sewers, water mains, gas pipes and electricity cables that criss-cross the UK.
Thames Water alone looks after 68,000 miles of sewers and 20,000 miles of clean water pipes from London in the east to Swindon in the west.
With so many assets and companies, working underground can be complex, inefficient and dangerous. Workers who strike gas pipes and electric cables by mistake are also at risk of death and serious injury.
For years, each company used their own maps, but now a taskforce comprising utility firms and the Geospatial Commission is consolidating all the data in one place to make it easier for workers to find out what exactly is below the surface.
Gareth Mullen, Thames Water’s head of safety, health and wellbeing, said: “This will not only help the water industry, but it will open up a lot of new information for those looking to carry out work in an area, by seeing exactly what is beneath their feet.
“The sharing of this information will help to enable efficiencies, improve stakeholder engagement and reduce disruption across all works carried out by utility companies – but most importantly it will help us keep our frontline teams safe by giving them more accurate and accessible data.”
NUAR replaces a proof-of-concept project in London carried out by Thames Water, TfL and the Greater London Authority (GLA) to map underground assets across multiple London boroughs.
Since then, the NUAR team at the GLA has been working with more asset owners to map underground data across the entire Greater London region.
Thalia Baldwin, director of the Geospatial Commission, said: “NUAR is a key part of the Geospatial Commission work programme in helping to unlock the value of location data for the utilities sector and the pilots informed our work across a number of areas to improve data sharing frameworks, data security, understand the legalities and how data can be brought together from both private and public sectors for public benefit."
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