Specialist blockage busters get the call to keep sewers flowing

A specialist team of blockage busters set up by Lanes Group plc is helping the UK’s biggest water company crack some of its most complicated sewer problems – boosting customer service and cutting costs.

The special projects team is using the latest remote cutting and pipe lining technologies to remove blockages from hard-to-reach sewers that would otherwise have to be dug up at great expense.

Since it was set up in March 2021, the team has completed more than 160 blockage removal and pipe rehabilitation projects, accelerating the process of solving complex sewer problems, in partnership with Thames Water.

Lanes is Thames Waters’ sole wastewater network service maintenance service partner. It provides a round-the-clock service to unblock drains and sewers and carry out planned cleaning to keep pipes flowing for the water company’s 15 million wastewater customers.

The special projects team was formed by Lanes Head of Delivery Craig May as a response to Thames Water’s goal of carrying out more first time fixes to solve the toughest sewer blockage challenges.

He said: “We could see the opportunity to use the latest robotic systems to take out blockages. We can prevent the build-up of long-term problems that would otherwise have to be continuously managed at significant cost. It also reduces the number of sewers that have to be excavated and replaced.”

Thames Water operational colleagues are impressed with the team’s contribution. One operations manager said: “They’re a valuable resource. They’re always looking at new ways and different equipment to provide better service. The who team – engineers, planners and managers – is extremely professional.”

The special projects team has four two-person operational teams who use mechanical cutting equipment to remove blockages too stubborn for water jetting.

In one project, a 150mm-diameter collapsed pipe buried nine metres underground beneath a row of houses in Notting Hill, West London, was cleared and lined in a five-day project.

The only alternative would have been to excavate the pipe, which would have required the homes to be propped up in a project that would have lasted six weeks and cost over £100,000.

Another success was the clearance of a 13m 150mm-diameter clay pipe that had been completely blocked with concrete, in just two weeks. Again, the pipe ran under house extensions and would have, otherwise, taken three months to excavate and replace.

A third project in Ealing, West London, involved removing concrete from a 22m-long 150mm-diameter pipe in just two weeks – a feat that won the UKSTT 2022 Environment Award.

The work of the Lanes special projects team, working closely with Thames Water network engineers, is providing the water company with a range of benefits.

Its work is less costly than conventional solutions, it eliminates hundreds of mitigation jobs needed to maintain wastewater services, and boosts customer satisfaction.

The interventions are also far more sustainable, with lower carbon footprint, safer work practices, and the elimination of the potential disruption to local communities caused by carrying out excavations.

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