Geospatial Commission to create digital map of underground utility assets

underground utility assetsImage: UK to create a national register of underground utility assets. Photo: courtesy of Crown copyright.

The UK Geospatial Commission plans to bring together the existing data on underground pipes and cables and map them digitally to create a national register of underground utility assets.

The purpose of the digital mapping project is to address the accidental strikes on underground pipes and cables that cost the country £1.2bn a year. The project will also prevent incidents of workers accidentally hitting gas and electric pipes and thereby endangering their lives.

Already £3.9m pilot projects are underway in London and the North East to evaluate the project’s feasibility.

Minister for Implementation Oliver Dowden 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.”

The Underground Asset Register to be created by the Geospatial Commission will display where electricity and phone cables, and water and gas pipes are buried.

Currently, there is a lack of comprehensive map of underground utility assets in the UK.

Various organisations in the UK do have their own maps to show where gas pipes, electricity cables and other underground assets are. However, the lack of a combined map results in an increased risk of potentially dangerous accidents, said the Geospatial Commission.

The commission said that work to address the problem has so far seen working prototypes created in London and Sunderland, which enables workers to see underground utility assets on laptop computers or mobile phones before they begin digging.

In the North East, Ordnance Survey is leading the project working alongside Northumbrian Water, Northern Powergrid, Northern Gas Networks and Openreach.

Ordnance Survey Great Britain managing director David Henderson 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.”

In London, Greater London Authority will lead the work going forward with the department closely working with infrastructure providers and local authorities.

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