Scottish roads set for “keyhole” technology

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SCOTTISH roads are set to become a lot clearer thanks to a new method of “keyhole” technology.

Disruption caused to roads across the country is set to be minimised with the introduction of a new technique which enables workers to fix underground piping without digging up the entire road.

Work that has previously taken days to complete, is now being done in mere hours by drilling a small hole in the road rather than large trenches.

The new approach is being pioneered in Glasgow, but looks set to spread to the rest of the country by the end of the year.

Scotland’s official road works watchdog body has welcomed the move as significantly cutting the length of time that drivers are caught up in disruptions.

The technique has been under a two-year trial by Scottish Gas Networks.

The firm have successfully used the method to fix gas leaks in pipes underground.

Gas leaks account for 80% of the SGNs repairs, and are often the most disruptive to traffic as they are unplanned.

The company also hope they can use  the new technique for other work such as replacing gas mains.

The keyhole method could also be used by other firms, such as water and electricity companies.

It is also thought that the technique could be used by local authorities when repairing potholes.

The method further reduces disruption as man-hole-like covers can be used to conceal the hole when work is not immediately taking place.

Known as the “core and vac” technique, it involves a two-foot in diameter hole being drilled into the road, which is lifted out, and then put back after the work is completed.

Then workers at ground level are able to use long-handled machinery to work on the pipes below.

Gus McIntosh, Innovation and new technology manager at SGN, said: “The quicker we can get into roads, get out of roads and get them reinstated and the traffic moving again the better for everyone – and that’s exactly what core and vac delivers.”

The Scottish road works commissioner Elspeth King said: “I regularly remind organisations about the importance of reducing the time taken to carry out works to keep disruption at a minimum.

“I want to encourage any new ways of working which can minimise disruption. One innovation which I am giving my support to that of keyhole technology.

“Use of SGN’s core and vac technique can reduce the time taken for a repair from three to five days to five hours. This has a significant impact on reduced road congestion and inconvenience to other road users.

“I consider that this technique will have a significant impact on the time taken to carry out gas mains repairs and look forward to seeing its use increase in Scotland.”

Neil Greig, policy and research director of the institute of Advanced Motorists said: “This looks like an excellent example of technology being applied to reduce delays to drivers and improve the quality of reinstatement.

“The proof will only come in the long term, however, and to date the utility companies have a mixed record on the standard of their repairs, which often leads to big bills for councils  to remedy their failures.

“In ideal conditions I see no reason why this should not work, but on our streets which are already littered with potholes, trenches and patches it may be a different story altogether.”

A spokesman for Scottish Water said that they would be looking at the new technology to see if it was “suitable” for them.

He said: “If there is damage to a road caused by a burst water main, it is generally more widespread than is the case with other utilities who encounter problems under the roads.

“However, we will look at this technology to see if we can find a suitable use for it in the future.”

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