There is currently no comprehensive underground map of the UK's service network.
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.
As part of the Northumbrian Water Group Innovation Festival [an event held at Newcastle Racecourse in July 2018], a team from OS Ventures, the Data Office and OS GB worked together – along with key stakeholders from the region including utilities, local authorities and partners – to create a combined underground infrastructure asset map of the North East (the first of its kind for the region).
Following on from the Innovation Festival, a small team from the Data Office; Consultancy & Technical Services; and Labs worked together over a 3-week period to develop, build and deploy a series of working prototypes to demonstrate what could be achieved as part of a potential pilot study.
This involved taking data (supplied by Northumbrian Water, Northern Gas Networks, Northern Powergrid, and Openreach) for Sunderland and the surrounding area – and loading it into a Neo4J graph database; along with a PostGIS relational database.
A series of API endpoints were then created using AWS Lambda functions (
POST requests) to query the two databases and return the assets as a combined GeoJSON response:
GETrequest] to return all the features within a given radius from a user-defined point.
POSTrequest] to return all the features intersecting a user-defined polygon in well-known text (WKT) format.
GETrequest] to return all the features associated to a street (OS MasterMap® Highways Network – Road TOID).
GETrequest] to allow the full set of attributes associated with a particular feature to be returned.
A simple interactive demonstrator was then built for each of the endpoints – using the OS Elements framework – to allow users to trial each of the services.
This allows workers to see underground pipes and cables (including water, wastewater, gas, electricity, telecoms and other underground services) on mobile phones or laptop computers before they start a dig.
On 25th April, the interactive demonstrators were shown at an event in Sunderland to support the launch of a new project to develop an underground asset map for the UK.
At the event, Minister for Implementation, Oliver Dowden announced that the project would start with £3.9 million worth of pilot projects split between London and the North East. Ordnance Survey will lead on the North East project along with Northumbrian Water and a number of key stakeholders.