London to create digital map of underground pipes and cables

17 May 2019

• London’s Underground Asset Register will show where electricity and phone cables and gas and water pipes are buried
• Map is designed to prevent accidents and disruption to the economy

A digital map of the pipes and cables which run underneath London is to be created, to help reduce the disruption caused when they are struck by mistake.
The Mayor of London’s Office has been awarded a share of £3.9m by the Government's Geospatial Commission as one of two national pilots to create a digital map of the utilities and pipes below ground.
The scheme will allow workers to see underground pipes and cables on mobile phones or laptop computers before they start a dig. This will help to reduce disruption on the roads through better planning and more coordination between infrastructure providers and local authorities.

It is estimated that the cost to the UK’s economy of accidental strikes on underground pipes and cables is £1.2bn a year. Workers who hit gas and electric pipes by mistake can also put themselves in danger of death or serious injury.
Known as London's Underground Asset Register (LUAR), the scheme will operate across six local authorities that are currently being selected. The Mayor’s Office is working closely with utilities, transport providers, and other partners to create the digital map. A similar project is also underway in Sunderland.
Currently, 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.

Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills, said: “This innovative use of data has the potential to revolutionise day-to-day operations in the infrastructure sector. This pilot scheme is great news for London and will build on the successful work we’ve done in this area so far. At City Hall we’ll be working in partnership with a wide group of stakeholders – from local authorities to utilities companies – and I look forward to the progress we can make together.”

Theo Blackwell, London’s Chief Digital Officer, said: “This is another practical example of how we are using data to improve the lives of Londoners. It forms part of a wider body of work to improve the quality of data across London’s planning systems. This will help us lower construction costs, improve coordination between utility and infrastructure companies and uncover London’s hidden assets.”

The 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."

Kelly Macfarlane, Thames Water’s customer experience director, said: “We’re proud our innovative data system provided the inspiration for this project. It will benefit millions of road users by reducing disruptive works, help prevent customer supply interruptions caused by accidental damage to water pipes, and importantly keep safe the people who carry out essential work to provide the capital with resilient utility networks.”

The project is supported by the Mayor’s Infrastructure High Level Group and fits within the Smarter London Together roadmap.
LUAR builds on an initiative led by Thames Water with support from TfL and other utilities called the Highways Asset Data Exchange System’ ‘HADES,’ a proof of concept that created a similar map for smaller areas of London. Using the platform provided by Ordnance Survey, the pilot will map underground assets in six local authorities to test the unique challenges associated with dense urban areas.

LUAR is one of two pilots commissioned by the Geospatial Commission. The other pilot, led by Ordnance Survey in the North East, will look into the technical feasibility of creating a national underground asset register for data sharing. It will also test a number of use cases.

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