Blog – GIS utility infrastructures supporting digital society

Pascal LORY, EUROGI Vice-president


EUROGI, European Umbrella organisation for Geographic Information, organize a one day conference in cooperation with AFIGEO, named “GIS utility infrastructures supporting digital society”, during its Members Meeting the 7th of December 2017.
As a matter of fact, “GIS utility infrastructure” is an issue EUROGI seized as soon as 2014 when it took part of UPSIDEDOWN European project. Today, in order to ease the understanding of this field and feed members’ thoughts, EUROGI decided to focus its Members Meeting on that topic. In this article, I will focus on the France’s case.
In 2007 and 2008, several dramatic gas explosions happened in France, in Bondy, Niort, Noisy-le-Sec and Lyon. In a gas explosion, which occurred in Lyon in 2008, a fireman died. Accordingly, a strong awareness regarding excavations’ security around underground networks arose. News rules were set up in order to prevent, not only injuries to persons but also losses or damages on underground infrastructures during excavations.
France features 4 million kilometer of underground pipe or cables networks of which a third is aerial and two thirds are underground or underwater. This means 2.725.000KM of underground pipes or cables. In the same vein, 40% are critical for security (1.630.000KM), and directly pointed out by new rules published in 2012: power, gas, hazardous materials, rail networks, heating networks. 60% are not critical for security: electronic communications, waterworks, sewage systems, but anyway, essential for economy and users.
Furthermore, there are 5 million excavations in France every year, and a lot of damages. These damages cost a lot: repairs, service disruptions, environmental damages… The new rules, published in 2012, resulted in a drop in damages from 100.000 per year to 65.000 today. Before the new rules, gaz damages amounted to 4.500 per year, now the decrease is up to 50%.
When we are walking in the streets, it’s difficult to imagine how the underground of our cities is a complex world! There are so many underground networks, so many crossing pipes and cables! An accurate knowledge of the underground networks’ infrastructures is essential for efficient public utilities. But, most of the time, currently, local authorities and networks operators, doesn’t know the location of their infrastructures with accuracy. They got different plans, from different data sources, with different scales, quality and accuracy. So it harms infrastructure’s management, projects’ designing and expose to risks during excavations. There is a critical need of a common shared map for all the stake-holders to reach a common understanding of the underground complexity.
In July 2012, new rules came into force. In particular, networks operators have to commit on their infrastructures’ location. In January 2019, the gas and power underground networks’ plans in urban areas (3.000 municipalities out of a total of 35.000), provided by networks operators in response to work’s statements (anyone who want to dig somewhere have to make a statement on a single portal), will have to be georeferenced in the national system of coordinates with 40 cm uncertainty. In 2026, these requirements will be extend to whole France. So, networks operators and local authorities will have to upgrade all the previous networks plans they have, and at the same time enhance quality of the new networks data they collect so as to be compliant with 40cm uncertainty. Regarding the basic map to be used, rules say: this is the “best very large scale plan available”.
During the 2013 to 2017 period, CNIG (French national council for geographic information) and AFIGEO (French umbrella organization for geographic information) has been the framework for working on the geographic side of these new rules. The mainstream objective was, at the end of the way, to design a common shared basic map between all the stake-holders. Very quickly, the assumption has been to share a skeleton of accurate core data compliant with underground pipe and cables networks data. There was a common willingness to achieve, of course the respect of the rules was essential, but also, everyone had understood huge savings could be done, in pooling topographic expenses, instead of leading it on its own side. There was a strong economic interest.
The skeleton of accurate core data, a CNIG geo standard, has been named: Very large scale Core Street map. What’s the content of this Very large scale Core Street map? The vertical projection of the facades or frontage buildings, all the edges of the pavements in the streets, all the visible or emerging networks’ infrastructures on the road or pavements (manhole covers), and addresses, are included. The accuracy of the data is 10cm to insure an uncertainty of 40cm (It can occur that manholes’ location come from “on the ground” measurements). Of course the standard is compliant to INSPIRE directive.
When available this Very large scale Core Street map, implemented and up to date by the relevant public authority, will be shared between: other local authorities, spatial data infrastructures (SDI), and networks operators (gas, power, lightning, telecom, water supply, sewage…). At the end of the day, a new bylaw published 2015 December the 22nd stipulate that the plan to be used has to be compliant with the standard Very large scale Core Street map” implemented by the CNIG. So CNIG – AFIGEO standardization work has been acknowledged by the state. The Very large scale Core Street map is now mandatory.
At the same time, all the stake-holders (local authorities, networks operators, French mapping agency IGN, National college of Land surveyor, AFIGEO) also negotiated an agreement and signed it at a political level in the French parliament, upper chamber, the senate precisely, 2015 June the 24th. In this agreement the stake-holders committed on different points, at a local level, to create the conditions for local agreements aiming at setting up a Very large scale Core Street map, to apply the geo standard, and to maintain up-to-date the data of the map therefore produced. At a national level the stake-holders committed to set up an observatory of the implementation, maintain the geo standard, create the conditions of a national aggregation, and disseminate data through the “SINGLE PORTAL” so as to improve the drawings of works’ scope.
Ultimately, a new version of the Core Street Map geo standard is available since September 2017. This Geo standard 2.0 contain an image component. As a matter of fact, in rural areas a vector map would be irrelevant because of the low density of underground networks, the cost would be unappropriated. A new bylaw, to be published in 2018, will establish that the geo standard, implemented by the CNIG, also concern water supply and sewage networks. Furthermore, standardization is also requested by networks operators for their own networks. The story isn’t finished…