The Geospatial Commission is to test the feasibility of creating a digital map of underground pipes and cables.
It has laid plans for two pilot projects – in London and the North East – which if successful could lead to the delivery of a nationwide map by 2023.
This would involve bringing together existing data on underground pipes and cables to create an Underground Assets Register.
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 can really make a difference to people’s everyday lives.”
Working prototypes have been created in Sunderland and London, enabling workers to see underground pipes and cables on mobile phones or laptop computers before they start a dig.
In the North East, the project has been led by mapping agency Ordnance Survey, which has worked with Northumbrian Water, Northern Gas Networks, Northern Powergrid and Openreach. It is aimed at creating a data sharing platform for the stakeholders.
In London, the work will be led by the Greater London Authority with infrastructure providers and local authorities. It builds on work carried out Thames Water and Transport for London, and includes creating inventories of existing data systems, engaging with key utility and transport providers and boroughs to establish data sharing agreements, modelling and loading data and testing a number of use cases
David Henderson, managing director of Ordnance Survey, said: “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.”
There is currently no comprehensive underground map of the UK’s service network. Different organisations have their own maps showing the locations of such things as gas pipes and electricity cables, but the lack of a combined map creates an increased risk of potentially lethal accidents.
Image: Oliver Dowden with Heidi Mottram and Clive Surman Wells, operations solutions manager at Northumbrian Water Group