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Poor maintenance of power network putting lives at risk with almost 80 London ‘exploding pavement’ incidents in 5 years

Pavement ‘explosions’ are putting lives at risk a Labour London Assembly Member has warned after new figures revealed almost 80 incidents in London in the last five years. Labour’s London Assembly Environment Spokesperson Murad Qureshi AM who obtained the figures said UK Power Networks, the company responsible for running and maintaining the power cables in London and the South East, needed to do far more to ensure that old and unsafe cabling and equipment was replaced before it became dangerous.

In response to a Freedom of Information request from Mr Qureshi asking for the number of pavement explosions in London the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that between February 2010 and February 2015 there were 233 incidents where link boxes and cable pits failed - the prime cause of most pavement explosions. 77 of these incidents were deemed to be ‘disruptive’ which is described by the HSE as “involving fire, explosion and/or the involvement of the fire service.”

This is the equivalent of more than one disruptive incident every month over the five year period. Around half of the incidents occurred last year, with 40 ‘disruptive’ incidents reported in 2014 alone. This comes despite HSE stating that they stepped up inspections in April last year.

The explosions are generally caused by electrical faults with underground electrical equipment (primarily link boxes or cable pits) due to poor maintenance of the network. Mr Qureshi said UK Power Networks and South Eastern Power who are responsible for the maintenance of electrical equipment, should be “doing everything possible to crack down” on dangerous equipment failures.

Mr Qureshi requested the figures after a suspected electrical fault resulted in a highly-disruptive, large scale fire on Kingsway in Holborn. Despite the fire occurring in early April access to the road remains limited with the Mayor telling Assembly Members recently that it is not expected to re-open fully until mid-August.

Labour’s London Assembly Environment Spokesperson Murad Qureshi AM said:

“Thankfully pavement explosions are relatively rare but when they do occur the consequences can be very serious.

“With 40 explosions last year alone and a deeply disruptive incident on Kingsway in April it’s time UK Power Networks did everything possible to crack down on this potentially life threatening problem.

“This is a company which made almost two hundred million pounds profit last year. It shouldn’t be too much to ask for them to invest a little of that in overhauling their aging electricity supply network and stepping up inspections.”


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