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University plans to map UK utilities network

Engineers at Birmingham University plan to create a map of all underground pipes and cables in the UK.
They are hoping utility companies will be able to share information and lessen the disruption caused to the public when roads and pavements are dug up.

The £1.2 million mapping project, which involves seven universities, is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Project leader Professor Chris Rogers said there are more than four million kilometres of underground cables and pipes carrying water, sewage, gas, electricity and telecommunications nationwide.

Each year, 1.5 million holes are dug in footpaths and highways by utility firms to install new services and maintain existing ones.

Professor Rogers said every time this happened workers risk damaging another utility's service as well as striking live power cables.

Professor Rogers said: 'We hope that by providing these companies with the means to create a comprehensive map before they dig, that they will be able to carry out their work more efficiently and safely.'

Professor Rogers said many underground services were laid in Victorian times when the need to record details of location and depth was not a priority.

Since then, many more pipes and cables had been laid and their locations recorded in different, incompatible formats such as paper, microfiche, and digital.

It costs the utility industry £1.5 billion a year to carry out street works and £150 million for damage caused to other services.

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