EFFORTS are being ramped up to stop the havoc caused by burst water pipes in Oxford.

Thames Water is set to launch a full-on attack on leaks across its network after it was slammed by a regulator for failing to get to grips with the issue.

This summer has seen a number of major incidents involving burst pipes, which have closed roads and left homes without water for long periods.

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Rymers Lane in Cowley has been shut for a week after the road collapsed, revealing a large hole underneath.

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Similar issues have been seen in Broad Street, Marsh Road, Woodstock Road and Botley Road among others in recent months.

Hot weather throughout the summer is thought to be responsible for at least some of the pipes bursting, but Thames Water has insisted there has not been a unexpected spike in the problem and it is well equipped to deal with the issues.


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The company was criticised by Ofwat in June after a year-long investigation and has the worst leak record of all water companies, with 697million litres lost every day.

It was forced to pay a package of penalty payments worth £120m, which included rebates to customers.

On September 3, Thames Water will outline how it plans to reduce leakage by 15 per cent by 2025 and 50 per cent by 2050, as part of its next business plan.

Touhida Akter, 29, whose Iffley Road flat was without water after a pipe burst in Aston Street last week, said: "You don't realise how important water is until its gone.

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"We were without it for much of the day and we couldn't wash or make coffee - even the gas cooker wasn't working.

"Some of my neighbours' basements flooded and they had to bring in special equipment to drain them out."

Burst pipes like the ones seen in recent months are caused by one of any number of reasons.

Hard ground after the prolonged hot weather can lead to pipes fracturing and bursting while a surge in demand puts them under pressure.

Joints connecting the pipes can move slightly overtime allowing water to escape and traffic above ground can also cause problems.

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Georgina Gibbs, a Northway Community Association member who lives near the new 885-home Barton Park estate, has called for a halt in any further developments until the work to stop leakage is complete.

She said: "Our pipe system is antiquated and cannot cope.

"Cowley and East Oxford have been most affected yet there are student flats going up in Iffley Road, placing more pressure on the system.

"With more developments we are going to see more and more of this sort of thing."

Thames Water's plans will see £200million spent on finding and fixing leaks.

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It is investing in new technology including drones and satellites to identify the problem areas before they cause damage to the road surface.

The company is also increasing the number of teams it has out inspecting pipes and will keep them on stand-by, so they can react quickly in case of a burst.

Lee Irving, spokesman for Thames Water, said: "Proactively identifying and tackling leakage is a top priority for Thames Water and its customers.

"We have taken more control of how we manage the network and are investing significantly more in people and resources to tackle leakage, get back on track with our targets and then go beyond.

"Thanks to these changes already in place, our current leakage repair performance is our best ever at around 1,000 a week.

"There is no quick and easy way to reduce leakage and stop bursts, but we’re convinced the changes and strategy in place now will deliver results for the long term."

With significant congestion already experienced on the roads due to the problems, Oxfordshire County Council has stressed that companies including Thames Water should do their best to keep disruption to a minimum and ensure any roadworks should be completed to a high standard.

Spokesman Paul Smith said: "It’s always the case that utilities will have to undertake emergency work, especially when problems would lead to nearby homes not having water, gas or electricity supplies if swift action wasn’t taken.

"We do impress on utilities that traffic needs to be managed properly to minimise disruption and that repair work afterwards should be to a high standard.

"When this does not happen it is frustrating and we make our views known on behalf of Oxfordshire residents.”