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A hole lot of trouble… searching for tunnels

23rd April 2014

A recent report by Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has highlighted the need for conveyancers and developers to be vigilant to underground tunnels following an incident in 2013 when a housing developer bored piling shafts through an underground railway tunnel in London.

The developer and builder in this case were not aware of the tunnel until the incident because

  • Routine conveyancing searches did not include the tunnel owner, Network Rail, because the organisation was not included in the options offered by the specialist conveyancing search provider used when the development site was purchased in 2010;
  • The tunnel, in common with railway tunnels in urban areas, is omitted on most mapping, including all current and historic Ordnance Survey maps and plans. It is Ordnance Survey policy not to show railway tunnels considered to be part of an ‘underground system’ on its maps. Although not relevant to the accident, maps showing underground railways often show a stylised, but incorrect, alignment;
  • The developer proceeded without understanding the significance of a Land Registry entry for the development site stating ‘so much of the sub-soil as was vested in the Great Northern and City Railway is excluded from the registration’ (this railway company no longer exists but its assets, including the incident tunnel, have passed to other organisations).

You can see full details of the RAIB investigation on their website by clicking here

ETSOS offers a comprehensive range of conveyancing searches, including Network Rail and Transport for London enquiries enabling conveyancers to demonstrate greater due diligence. For more information please either contact your account manager, or speak to David Opie (davidopie@etsos.co.uk) on 01524 220001

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