An affect of not undertaking multi-disciplinary analysis of the interfaces, London, UK.

This example presents an event where the interfaces of UUMI and its environment were not comprehended by any of the interfacing stakeholders. The author of this website participated in the investigation advising on evidence-based research findings he had gathered post the incident (the legal documents and history in the report).

It has been mentioned already that there is a common misconception that UUMI in London is always under the public highway. The ongoing research has clearly demonstrated that this not the case and that there are many and varied locations across metro networks, internationally, where the UUMI is located within, under, and forms part of urban infrastructure.

In 2014, the UK Railway Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), which investigates certain railway accidents, published a report into the penetration of a tube railway tunnel in London, during 2013. The report clearly highlighted that the presence, property, and protection interfaces of the UUMI and its environment had not been comprehended by the urban landowner, their representatives, and contractors, or by NR as the UUMI owner/maintainer.

Fig.1, shows an example of the designed foundations for a new surface development in central London. Note how the proposal would have caused 19 of the 39 piles, to intersect one of the tube tunnels (RAIB, 2014, p.16). The proposed intersection of the piles with the tunnel were only identified by incident when an auger penetrated the tube tunnel (Fig.2).


Fig.16: Diagram showing the proposed intersection of the piled foundations and the UUMI beneath. Source:

RAIB, 2014.


Fig.2: Photograph showing the hole in the tunnel roof and debris on the track, caused by the penetration of the auger. Source: RAIB, 2014.


The RAIB report (2014, pp.13-31) stated that:

  • The Client did not appreciate the significance of an entry on the Land Registry Property Register (Cadastre);

  • Searches undertaken on behalf of the Client prior to it purchasing the site did not include Network Rail;

  • A 1967 undertaking by the London Borough of Hackney, intended to give the tunnel owner the right to approve any proposed development, did not result in

  • Network Rail being consulted before piling commenced;

  • The structural engineer and contractors did not identify that an obstruction found in an exploratory borehole was part of a railway tunnel;

  • Pre-construction documentary searches did not detect the presence of the tunnels or the need for additional searches;

  • The planning approval process did not recognise the tunnel risk;

  • Network Rail had no protection arrangements to identify risk due to proposed developments”.

Additionally, the report (RAIB, 2014, pp.27-28), stated that, Network Rail, as owner/maintainer for the UUMI:

relied on it being notified of proposed works, either directly by a developer or by a local planning authority after a planning application had been made, to protect its infrastructure. For this arrangement to work, it depended on third parties being aware of the presence of railway infrastructure including, as in this case, tunnels”.

While it is difficult to argue whether or not the incident would have occurred with  a shared comprehension of the interfaces of the UUMI and its environment between the interfacing stakeholders, it is clear that the safe presence and operation of the UUMI should have been accommodated. Not only during construction, but during the whole lifecycle of the infrastructure and its environment. 

Arguably this could be achieved by a shared comprehension of the occurrences of the presence, property, and protection interfaces, and how, when, where, and why they occur, between the interfacing stakeholders. Which comprehension can only be achieved through the analysis of the occurrence of the interfaces, gathering of key evidence-based data, and effective sharing of that data, between the stakeholders.


London, UK

©2018 by Nathan Darroch