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UK to create digital map of underground pipes and cables

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The UK government has announced the creation of a digital map showing the location of underground pipes and cables, in an attempt to reduce disruption caused by accidental strikes.

According to a government release, the estimated cost of accidental strikes on pipes and cables located underground is £1.2 billion (€1.39 billion), with the additional risk of death or serious injury caused to workers who hit the pipes.

The government’s Geospatial Commission will collate existing data on underground pipes and cables to form an Underground Assets Register. The process is already underway, with pilot projects in London and the North East currently testing the feasibility of the undertaking.

“When workers strike pipes and cables, it risks lives, costs money and causes havoc for residents and road-users,” said Oliver Dowden, minister for implementation. “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.”

In the North East, the project is being led by Ordnance Survey with support from Northumbrian Water, Northern Gas Networks, Northern Powergrid and Open Reach.

“The creation of an underground map of utility assets has long been an ambition of Ordnance Survey,” added David Henderson, managing director of Ordnance Survey Great Britain. “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.”

In London, the project is being led by the Greater London Authority in collaboration with infrastructure providers and local authorities.