- Company has 500 technicians and 160 repair crews handling repairs, investigations and 40% increase in reported leaks.
- Teams found and fixed more than 1,000 leaks in a week.
- Extra staff also drafted in to answer customer calls and log leaks in need of repair.
Thames Water has extra staff working around the clock to investigate and repair leaking water pipes caused by the cold snap gripping the south-east.
The company repaired more than 1,000 leaks last week and has 500 engineers and 160 repair crews out every day for this sustained period of freezing cold weather.
The company said its 15 million customers can monitor if leaks have already been reported using an online tracker called Thames Water Live, and explained that response times are slower than normal due to the high number of pipes in need of repair – up 40 per cent this week.
Bob Collington, managing director of the company’s water operations, said: “We’re dealing with the biggest and most disruptive leaks first. This involves working closely with local councils and Transport for London to ensure we carry out our repairs as soon as we have their permission and all safety measures, such as temporary traffic lights, are in place where needed.
“Our customers can really help us at this difficult time by checking we’re aware of any leaks they see using our online tracker, so that we can quickly assess the scale of the problem and ensure gritting is in place overnight when frost is forecast.
“If the leak isn’t on the tracker we have a really easy-to-use online form they can complete to tell us about any new leaks. After that, please bear with us - we really are going as fast as we can.“
Thames Water said the temperature of water entering its pipes from reservoirs makes a big difference to how much they leak and how likely they are to burst.
Mr Collington added: “Research over many years has shown that 5°C is the critical level, causing the iron pipes to pull apart slightly at the joints. Often the water doesn't get down to 5°C, but when it does there is a marked impact.
“This year the sustained cold weather, with frosts virtually every night, meant we crossed the 5°C line last Sunday and this has caused around a 40% increase in the number of leaks being reported to us and a dramatic increase in the workload for our detection and repair teams.”
In response to the forecasts Thames Water began to increase the number of people tackling the work before Christmas. Last week they found and fixed more than 1,000 leaks and are adding to that each day. In addition, an extensive programme is in place to grit every outstanding leak on those days when temperatures fall towards freezing.
Extra staff have also been drafted in to answer customer calls and log leaks in need of repair and put regular cold weather updates on Thames Water’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.