Burst pipes causing road problems


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The Independent Online

Burst water pipes are causing problems on the country's roads as the big freeze persists.

The Metropolitan Police today advised motorists to avoid Bayswater Road and Old Kent Road in London and to seek alternative routes after burst water mains flooded the roads.

Thames Water has nearly double the number of pipe-fixing teams on stand-by over the weekend to cope with similar problems.

When the water in the pipes drops below 5C, they are more prone to bursts and leaks and with 17 of the last 22 months having below-average rainfall, water levels are exceptionally low, prompting fears of a drought.

Jerry White, Thames Water's head of water production, said: "We're getting our crews ready to tackle the bursts and we've got an additional 12 gangs getting ready to repair them as quickly as possible.

"As well as being disruptive, bursts and leaks waste water and with a drought looking more and more likely, saving water is more important now than ever."

He added: "Although this year we have reduced leakage to the lowest levels in the company's history, you are our eyes and ears so if you see a leak - please don't assume we already know about it.

"The sooner a leak is reported, the quicker we can fix it."

Last Saturday was the busiest day of the winter so far for the company, as the customer centre received 2,500 calls, with 3,000 calls over the weekend as a whole - 30 times more than the daily average.

A spokesman for the company added that it had received more tweets in two days than it normally would in two weeks.

Meanwhile, United Utilities, a provider of water and wastewater services to nearly seven million people in the north-west of England, said that the severe weather conditions had stopped them from operating as normal.

A spokesman said: "We had to pull our workers off some jobs in Cumbria because of the weather. It wasn't safe."

He added: "Literally, cars were sliding all over the show up there."

United Utilities did not experience the same influx of calls as Thames Water though, and the spokesman for the company said that, aside from the last couple of days in Cumbria, "winter has (so far) been relatively kind to the North West".

United Utilities has issued advice to customers in Cumbria regarding the risk of unlagged internal pipework freezing - a problem which the company says tends to affect customers' own pipes, rather than the public water mains.

Rachel Roberts, of United Utilities, said: "Prevention is always better than cure. It's far better to spend a few pounds lagging your pipes than to end up with a big plumbing bill, not to mention all the drama and inconvenience that comes with having no water or a burst pipe.

"But make sure you have a plan if something does go wrong.

"Find out now where your stop tap is located, so you can turn your water off if a pipe bursts.

"And have the name and number of a good plumber to hand."

The Stourbridge Road in Dudley was shut for 24 hours, causing rush-hour havoc on Wednesday evening this week, due to a burst water main which was attended to by South Staffs Water.

Keith Marshall, supply director at South Staffs Water, said the company has an action plan in place should there be an increased number of jobs.

Despite remarking that it is not quite as cold in the area today as it has been, with a temperature of 1C (33.8F), he acknowledge the unpredictability of the weather and the effects of freezing temperatures on pipes.

"This weekend we are gearing up to take more calls about bursts and leakages," he said.

"We are in the hands of the weather."