London's exploding pavements*

Underground power-boxes nestled beneath the pavements* of London keep blowing the hell up. In its defense, UK Power Networks reminds us that there's a lot of these boxes, and only a few of them explode catastrophically every year, blowing huge, dramatic holes in the streetscene. I'm reassured!

The risk is growing said the HSE, with 12 explosions in 2010, rising to 29 last year, following a slight drop to 8 blasts in 2011. Worryingly, in less than six months of this year there have already been 12 blasts.

In May 2012, three women were injured when a cable pit blew up on Edgware Road and back in August 2011, 76 year old Colin Wingate was confined to a wheelchair for three months following a pavement blow out in north-west London.

Londoners at risk of death from outbreak of exploding pavements

(via Neatorama)

*Note for Canadians and Americans: this usage of "pavement" is equivalent to the North American "sidewalk"


  1. I take it as a sign of progress. We’re only a few decades away from Star Trek-style exploding computer panels in every home!

    1.  Indeed.  Maybe we can all stop wearing seatbelts on airplanes to get more dramatic turbulence effects as well.  It would be way cooler if everyone was being thrown all over the place and there were no handholds anywhere.

      1. Stupid J.J. Abrams, screwing with canon just to add some clearly-needed basic safety measures to the Enterprise.

        1. Agreed.  Half the fun of the Star Trek battle scenes has always been watching crewmembers vaulting over railings in the wake of exploding consoles.

          1. Imagine the perils of enduring such a battle aboard that Romulan ship Narada. That thing was nothing but elevated walkways and dim lighting with nary a handrail in sight.

  2. The power company later replied with…

    Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements
    Even if it leads nowhere?
    Or would it be a waste even if I knew my place
    Should I leave it there?

  3. “Underground power-boxes” (i’m assuming aka transformer or sometimes “pull boxes”) exist in every major city, yet this is the first i’ve heard of them exploding at anything near that rate (“12 explosions in 2010, rising to 29 last year”) so are the ones in London particularly ‘special’ in a known way?

    1. The weather is more wet in London than in Tucson Arizona where I live. I’d expect the electrical stuff to be more likely to explode, due to the more frequent ingress of moisture.

      Or, it could be Lucas. Yeah, that’s it, Lucas.

      1. as a selfish example in distinction, in Seattle, where i live, it’s pretty much the same wet-osity as London, yet [cups hand to ear] relatively few electrical explosions  (bridges falling down, yes…)

  4. “Listen, this old system of yours could be on fire and I couldn’t even turn on the kitchen tap without filling out a 27b/6… Bloody paperwork.”

  5. We’ve had 4 underground transformer explosions/fires in Minneapolis/St. Paul in 2013 so far.  I don’t think the holes were quite as dramatic, but I’ve got good video of the sidewalk being on fire.  Even saw multi-color flames like green and such.

    I wonder if they’re all of a certain age?  Certain flawed manufacturing?

  6. “Let me take you by the hand, and lead you through the streets of –” *BOOM*. Could add a frisson to the old Ralph McTell classic ;)

  7. There’s a very easy fix to this. Put the office of each Director, Executive and upper Manager on top of those places where a power box is located. Shift them around randomly on a monthly basis.

  8. There was one blew up in town near me a few years back here in Newcastle as well. Caused quite the stir (and the power outage, natch).

  9. so, it exploded once, blowing the hole in the sidewalk and attracting the attention of the videographer, and then it exploded again?  why is there a hole in the sidewalk initially?

    OK, read the uploader comments.  yep, two explosions.  confusing.

  10. What I’d be a bit more nervous about is whether equipment in this… fine state of repair… is also old enough to be full of delicious PCBs.

    Sure, you don’t want to be the guy standing on top of one if it goes *pop*; but once a good PCB fire gets going, it’s happy dioxin fun time for the entire neighborhood!

  11. So a London Public service detonates more bombs a year in public then ALL the terrorists? 
    Surely a multi-billion pound dragnet network to monitor suspicious individuals is necessary.  UK Citizens walking over these areas endangers UK Citizens! 

    1. Clearly we need to extend the CCTV coverage underground! Then we’ll find out who’s planting these explosive devices.

    2.  A particularly good point.   If your failing infrastructure is more hazardous than your external “enemies”, then perhaps you should focus the MASSIVE amount of resources being directed towards “fighting terrorism” towards repairing said infrastructure instead.

      Oh yeah, not as politically flashy, and less likely to garner you votes etc…

  12. Not just blasts! Oh no, let us not forget how these boxes will spray boiling carcinogenic Oils in a wide radius. Burns and long term health problems!

    This happens in NA, too, just not as much.

  13. In New York City, a bunch of people (and dogs!) have been electrocuted by stepping into a puddle. Probably happens other places too, I just never read about them.

  14. Summer in NYC is marked by exploding underground power things. That’s how ConEd knows when they need to be replaced.

    One blew up on my block in Astoria the summer after 9/11, it was great fun.

  15. Ahhh… reminds me of the days when manhole covers would periodically go flying into the air in DC.

  16. In response, a dragnet has been put out for all people mysteriously wearing jackets.

  17. This was a major problem in Washington, DC, a few years back: manhole covers blew off. No one was seriously injured there, either — probably due to luck — but on a couple of occasions the explosion blew out the electrical service to a chunk of Georgetown for several days. And yes, the cause appeared to be inadequate maintenance of underground electrical utilities. (The electric company kept trying to blame it on the gas company, but I think it was eventually decided that the problem was electrical.)

  18. Anyone else read it as ‘powder boxes’? I was really confused for a while why boxes of gunpower were buried throughout London.

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