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London Trial Sees Coordinated Street Works by Utility Firms

Friday, Apr 1st, 2022 (3:52 pm) - Score 1,464

The Greater London Authority (GLA) recently completed a project that has successfully showed how civil engineering work by three different utility providers – full fibre UK broadband ISP G.Network, water firm Thames Water and gas supplier SGN – can be combined and coordinated to help reduce disruption, cut costs and save time.

At present it’s true to say that, with some limited exceptions, many of the street works that we all see outside our homes and offices can be fairly uncoordinated and this tends to result in a lot of disruption, with new works often kicking off soon after another batch completed in the same area. In fairness, such works can be complex and have very different needs.

However, the GLA recently began making more active use of their newly developed Infrastructure Coordination Service (ICS), which is free to access for councils and utility companies. In simple terms, the new service attempts to tackle this problem by getting utility companies to share data and coordinate their planned works.

One of the first true deployments (i.e. not a pilot) of this service was recently used during an 11-week closure of the residential and 700 metres long Sunnyhill Road area in the London Borough of Lambeth, which combined a major road resurfacing project with three planned utility upgrades from G.Network, Thames Water and SGN.

NOTE: Utility work is not normally permitted within 3 years of resurfacing – another argument for greater coordination.

According to New Civil Engineer, gigabit broadband operator G.Network kicked off the work by installing 600 metres of fibre optic cable by open trenching. This was followed by Thames Water installing 500m of new water main – using directional drilling – and then SGN adding 50m of new gas mains, before final resurfacing work.

The ICS didn’t just help to coordinate all this, but it also helped the utility firms to identify the opportunity for an overlap in the first place via its mapping tool (i.e. records of all planned and future works in the area). The team estimates that bringing the four parties together like this has saved 55 days of disruption.

Prior to all this, the original pilot phase achieved a wide range of results. For example, the Streets Service delivered eight collaborative street works projects, saving over 426 days of disruption; achieving £799,000 of cost savings to works promoters; and creating an estimated social value of up to £4.1m

By contrast, we believe the latest work forms part of a second phase of ICS delivery, which will extend the service’s use to cover more projects and develop a longer-term strategy for the future of the service. Last year, the Mayor of London approved establishment of the ICS expansion phase with £3.5m grant funding from the city’s Lane Rental Scheme Surplus Income to cover core expenses. The expansion phase runs until June 2023.

A previous report from data analytics firm Inrix showed that delays caused by traffic congestion on London’s streets cost the economy £4.1bn a year, with 15% of that being directly attributed to siloed and uncoordinated street work. Suffice to say, it’s easy to see why a collaboration search function like ICS, which makes it simple to spot overlaps between planned works and harness those, is so attractive.

The hope is that the ICS can now be extended and perhaps even enhanced to create oversight that extends over years rather than just weeks.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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6 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Alt-NetISP says:

    This is fantastic. Great to see innovative solutions and applying common sense.

  2. Avatar photo Lucian says:

    Good stuff, surprised this wasn’t already implemented, but better late than never.

  3. Avatar photo GNewton says:

    This has been common practice in countries like Sweden for many years.

    1. Avatar photo A_Builder says:

      The problem is that in the UK we think that ‘not caring’ and ‘letting the market sort things out’ are the same.

      They are not the same.

      There has to be a structure to enable good and organsied decision making.

      Next of all is putting a bit more pressure on Utilities to do the work faster. Running works from 08:00 to 15:00 isn’t very efficient. Every time I used to raise this a government level I was told ‘nobody wants to work out of hours’ or ‘ it will cost a fortune.’

      The problem is that there is no real incentive to get the road works finished and the road fully back in use. Lane rental schemes are all very well but the costs are just passed straight back to the bill payers.

      Nobody really want to grip this problem even though there is a big economic and societal cost.

  4. Avatar photo Jason says:

    Finally! So useless to open the road few months apart… At least this way there will be proper ducting in the streets as well which will hopefully make it all look better and make it more future proof

  5. Avatar photo Dan Whitley says:

    Given the date, one would be excused for thinking this was an April Fool’s joke. Hopefully it’s a genuine sign of things to come.

Comments are closed

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