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Geological model 'could change project planning'

A 3D model of the ground under London has been hailed as a major boost for civil engineering in the capital.

The British Geological Survey (BGS) launched the 3D geological model of London and the Thames Valley as part of its strategy to characterise the subsurface of the UK and improve the way decisions are made about resources and the environment.

Covering 4,800 sq km of London and the Thames Valley, from Newbury in the west to the inner Thames Estuary in the east, the model extends down to a depth of several hundred metres. It includes the regionally important Chalk aquifer, plus London’s favourite tunnelling medium, the London Clay.

The model has already proved its value during excavations for Crossrail’s Farringdon Station. Observations taken during excavations were used to update the model, reducing construction risk and saving four months on the programme.

Tim Chapman, director of Arup’s London Infrastructure Group, said: “The model could lead to a step change in site investigation and planning for major engineering projects.

“There is a need to improve ground investigation efficiency and thus one of the BGS geological 3D model’s future roles will be to help industry gather, share, synthesise and disseminate subsurface data.

“The integration of geological models with BIM and infrastructure models is the logical next step for BGS to take. This will help reach the ultimate goal of a fully integrated subsurface decision support system, perhaps even leading to the regulation of the subsurface akin to how we regulate the surface.”

Borehole information, cross sections and horizontal slices through the model are available to purchase (or free to academics) via BGS Groundhog for use in feasibility studies or spatial modelling software.

BGS plans to increase coverage to areas including Manchester, Merseyside, the Clyde Basin and East Yorkshire. It also hopes to release a Minecraft-version of the 3D geological model as a teaching aid for schools.

A full description of the model, including the modelling methodologies, is available here.

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