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Call to tackle threat of pavement explosions

PUBLISHED: 13:00 03 September 2015

Jennette

Jennette

Archant

Fourteen incidents in the borough in past five years

Pavement explosions are putting lives at risk a Labour London Assembly member has warned.

The explosions, which may also catch fire, can be caused my electrical faults in any parts of the 36,000km of cable and 100,000 link boxes below London’s streets, and often occur as the result of water leakage or gas coming into contact with faulty cables.

Based on documents released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 14 of these explosions have taken place in Islington in the past five years.

On February 17, 2014, 50 people were evacuated from Caledonian Road after flames were seen coming from an electrical manhole cover. On October 17 the same year, a huge fireball burst through a manhole cover in Holloway Road, after which firefighters had to help five people evacuate their homes.

So far no one in the UK has died.

Labour London Assembly Member Jennette Arnold has called on UK Power Networks, the company responsible for running and maintaining the power cables in London and the South East, to do more to ensure that old and unsafe cabling and equipment is replaced before it becomes dangerous.

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

“With more than 40 explosions last year and 39 in north east London alone, 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 £200million 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.”

A UK Power Networks spokesman said: “This is a global issue, and UK Power Networks is recognised as one of the industry leaders in tackling it. Although such incidents are extremely rare we do everything in our power to mitigate the risk, as public safety is always our number one priority.

“We have worked tirelessly since taking on the responsibility of London’s electricity network five years ago to maintain, replace and invest in our equipment. This includes carrying out over 40,000 underground inspections. We are looking to spend around �£1.5billion over the next seven years to ensure that London’s electricity network continues to be the UK’s most reliable.”

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