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Digital map of UK underground pipes and cables to be developed

The Underground Asset Register is expected to reduce the costs and safety issues associated with maintaining underground cables and pipes

A digital map of the UK’s underground network of pipes and cables is being created to reduce maintenance costs and enhance worker safety.

The Geospatial Commission announced the creation of the Underground Asset Register, which will show where electricity and phone cables, as well as gas and water pipes, are buried.

The project will start with £3.9m pilots split between the north-east and London. It aims to reduce the number of accidental strikes on underground pipes and cables, which are estimated to cost £1.2bn a year.

The register is also intended to improve the safety of workers who hit gas and electric pipes by mistake.

Ordnance Survey (OS) is leading the project in the north-east, alongside Northumbrian Water, Northern Gas Networks, Northern Powergrid and Openreach.

The pilot will use an initial prototype created with the group’s input, the idea being the development of a data sharing platform that enables a comprehensive map of underground assets and associated data.

In London, the project will be led by the Greater London Authority (GLA), which will liaise with infrastructure providers and local authorities.

The GLA pilot will build on previous work carried out by Thames Water, with support from Transport for London, to map underground assets in small test locations. With the OS platform, the pilot will map underground assets in six local authorities.

The project will involve the creation of inventories of existing data systems and engagement with utility and transport providers, as well as London boroughs, to establish data sharing agreements and other activities such as data modelling and loading.

Both pilots will test a number of use cases on behalf of the Geospatial Commission.

Created a year ago with an £80m, two-year budget, the Geospatial Commission was created by the Cabinet Office to advise the government on productive and economically valuable uses of geospatial data.

The commission has been working on ways to unlock the value of location data held by its partners through emerging technologies.

Last year, it completed a project with the government and Ordnance Survey to open up OS MasterMap data to UK-based small businesses, and others.

The aim is for the OS MasterMap data to boost the UK economy by “at least” £130m each year, as startups and other companies begin to use it.

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