Drainage vehicles enter digital age for improved service

Drainage and wastewater specialist Lanes Group plc is rolling out one of the most sophisticated and capable fleets of drainage vehicles ever commissioned in the UK on behalf of Thames Water.

The new van pack water jetting and CCTV survey vehicles benefit from new digital technologies and are designed to increase the number of first time fixes Lanes can carry out for the UK’s largest water company.

Lanes is the wastewater network services maintenance partner for Thames Water and is responsible for maintaining the sewer network relied upon by 15 million customers in London and the Thames Valley.

The new van packs, along with new CityFlex jet vac tankers and CCTV survey vans, represent a £14m investment by Lanes in vehicles serving Thames Water. The fleet will increase in size by 20% while the average age of vehicles will halve to three years, improving sustainability and reliability.

Lanes Director Andy Brierley said: “Our new van packs represent a step change in drainage maintenance technology. We’ve analysed every element of what we expect our van packs to achieve and made every possible improvement.

“It’s not just about sewer surveying and cleaning technology, we’ve also considered the welfare and safety of our teams and our ability to help Thames Water engage with customers about its services.”

Alex Saunders, Thames Water Regional Manager for Waste, said: “These state-of-the-art vans are the next generation of vehicles our engineers will use and have been designed around ensuring we can fix problems for our customers first time, without having to return at a later date.”

The vehicles are packed with dozens of new features to save space and increase the amount and type of tools carried, so engineers have more capabilities and can carry out their work more easily.

The most noticeable change is on the side of the vans. Each is fitted with a large screen that allow Thames Water to promote important messages, like its ‘Bin it – don’t Block it’ campaign, and information about major ongoing maintenance projects in local areas.

Other innovations include a CCTV survey camera mounted on a sliding tray, making it easier to take out and pack away. The camera  has a 100m-long reel of cable, a 66% increase on current vans, so longer sewers can be surveyed.

An onboard computer will allow survey data to be sent instantly to a central processing hub and for the footage to be viewed remotely to allow technical specialists to advise the CCTV engineer.

A new, more powerful water jetting system can blast blockage with 10 gallons of water per minute at 3000 pounds per square inch, increasing the likelihood of problems being solved. A wider range of jetting nozzles will also be carried.

New equipment includes a drain rod retrieval kit, an interceptor cleaner, a metal detector, and a manhole lifter, to reduce the risk of injury when opening chamber covers.

Lanes Operations Manager Matt Hughes said: “Once the rollout is complete, we will have 100 vans out on the streets, helping to keep the region safe from sewer blockages and other problems.

“They’re going to make a huge difference to the level of service we can deliver for Thames Water and its customers and to the enjoyment of our engineers in doing their work.”

Lanes has worked with its field engineers and Thames Water counterparts to develop the new vans, which are designed along lean engineering principles so jobs can be completed more simply with less wasteful effort.

For example, all tools and consumable products have their own compartments and small tools are stored in a pull-out tray with foam cut-outs for each item.

Safety features for the drivers include air-conditioned cabs, non-slip pads on door steps, and lock boxes for valuables and other equipment. For the first time, also, jetting can be carried out with the back doors closed to improve security and safety when working away from the van.

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