'Exploding' Pavements Are Still Putting People's Lives At Risk, Says Labour London Assembly Member, Murad Qureshi

Londoners' lives are being put at risk after nearly 80 incidents of "exploding pavements" were recorded in the capital in the last five years.

The "explosions" are a result of poor power network maintenance, a Labour London Assembly Member has claimed after obtaining the figures from a Freedom of Information request.

The party's London Assembly environment spokesman, Murad Qureshi, said UK Power Networks, the company responsible for running and maintaining the power cables in London and the South East, needed to do more to ensure that old and unsafe cabling and equipment was replaced before it became dangerous.

The pavement outside Foot Locker in Oxford Street ruptured after an electrical fault caused an explosion in 2010.

Between February 2010 and February 2015 there were 233 incidents where link boxes and cable pits failed - the main cause of most pavement explosions, the FOI figures revealed.

A total of 77 of these incidents were classed as "disruptive". This, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which released the statistics involved "fire, explosion and/or the involvement of the fire service".

Last year saw the most "disruptive" incidences, with 40 being recorded.

In 2013, 25 "disruptive" incidences occurred. Five were recorded in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

So far, there have been two instances of "exploding" pavements in London this year.

The explosions are often caused by electrical faults with underground electrical equipment.

Mr Qureshi said UK Power Networks, who are responsible for the maintenance of electrical equipment, should be “doing everything possible to crack down” on dangerous equipment failures.

The Labour politician requested the figures after a suspected electrical fault resulted in a highly-disruptive, large scale fire on Kingsway in Holborn.

The fire broke out in April, yet the road remains limited and it is not expected to re-open fully until mid-August.

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

“With 40 explosions last year alone and a deeply disruptive incident on Kingsway in April 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 two hundred million pounds profit last year. It shouldn’t be too much to ask for them to invest a little of that in overhauling their ageing electricity supply network and stepping up inspections.”

A spokeswoman for UK Power Networks told HuffPost UK: "This is a global issue, and UK Power Networks is recognised as one of the industry leaders in tackling it.

"We have over 100,000 cable pits and junction boxes and 36,000km of cable across the capital, delivering the most reliable power supply in the UK. 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 5 years ago to maintain, replace and invest in our equipment, this includes carrying out over 40,000 underground inspections."