News from The Survey Association - 15/01/2018

In this article we are featuring news from The Survey Association (TSA) and this will be followed up by regular columns. The TSA conference was held in November and we include a report on this as well as information on the government apprentice scheme and a TSA Guidance note on PAS128 compliant utility survey.

The annual Survey Association (TSA) conference was held this year at the Steam Museum of The Great Western Railway in Swindon, an appropriate venue to match the theme of 'On the Right Track'. The tone for the day was set by Chris Preston of Network Rail by emphasising how new technology was making railway survey more efficient. The railway needs to expand and run more trains, this means more work for surveyors but also more pressure because of less access, and more congestion on the track. Speakers from Fugro, Severn Partnership and Track Access spoke about mobile mapping systems and workflows designed to get 'boots off the gravel'. Preston also spoke of other pressures such as the need for vegetation surveys using hyperspectral imaging and laser scanning.

Key technologies for helping to overcome these problems are drones and laser scanning. Laser scanning gives good detail and high accuracy but requires permission and hardware to operate, the GPS signal can be lost in urban corridors and cuttings, and is not cost effective for short sections. According to Rollo Rigby from Severn Partnership, laser scanning can only provide 80% of the information needed. Drones can achieve the required accuracy, see the article by Wren in the Nov/Dec issue of GW, and do not require access to the track although keeping the line of sight can be a problem. Both drones and laser scanning bring their own problems which include large volumes of data, security and lack of interoperability between software packages. Surveyors also face the problem of lack of geospatial knowledge amongst other engineers and managers. Network Rail is training their own staff to operate drones, which may help. Other techniques to help which are being explored are artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality and automation, but the future may be in geospatial analytics, an argument put forward strongly by Preston and Alan Barrow from ABA Surveying Ltd. TfL has already shown the value of this through analysis of the their data on journeys.

Barry Gleeson from Network Rail and Alan Barrow discussed BIM and argued that this was an entree for geospatial surveyors into infrastructure projects as they can provide the data, maintain it, and develop standards so that all branches of the construction and asset management community can use the data. Survey4BIM could be a key player in developing this role. Barrow also pointed out that the surveyor's role in providing 3D data was under threat from the automotive industry who are the biggest collectors of 3D data relating to traffic. Geospatial surveyors must provide information, not just data.

Guidance on Specifying a Utility Survey

A new and definitive guide to specifying a PAS 128 compliant utility survey, issued by TSA, aims to demystify a complex technical area and improve communication between clients and practitioners. The Essential Guide to PAS128 2014 Utility Detection, Verification and Location, and the companion Mini Guide, are the first documents of their kind to include practical advice for clients on using PAS 128 to prepare the appropriate tender documents for their project. Written by TSA’s technical committee, with input from across the industry, the free-to-download guidance also provides clarity for professionals interpreting PAS 128 to deliver best practice utility surveys at the right price.

Technical content author and TSA Council member, Sam Roberts explains the scope of both the Essential and Mini Guides and who they are aimed at: “The Essential Guide goes into depth on all the techniques used for utility detection, the detail of PAS128, as well as health and safety, traffic management and training issues. It is a substantial reference document and a tool for clients to better understand what they are buying, and therefore to commission a survey company with confidence” he said.

The accompanying Mini Guide is split into sections for ease of reference and focuses on the areas of difficulty raised by clients. The Mini Guide is designed to help engineers, architects and planners easily understand if a quotation is in line with the appropriate PAS 128 level in the specification, and to be able to ask the right questions when comparing different proposals.

Sam Roberts concluded, “TSA’s new Utility Guidance documents seek to address the misinterpretation and misunderstanding of PAS 128. It is important that clients and those commissioning utility surveys know what they are getting – and what they should be getting, if they specify a PAS128 utility survey.”

The Essential Guide to PAS128 2014 Utility Detection, Verification and Location, and the Mini Guide can be downloaded free of charge at


On 5 October the government announced an update on Apprenticeship standards with Guidance on the Apprenticeship standard for a geospatial mapping and science specialist. TSA supports the apprenticeship scheme and Nick Hampson, Vice-President of The Survey Association commented, “TSA, following its investment in The Survey School in Worcester, is committed to raising educational and training standards in the profession and a crucial part of our vision is for a government-recognised geospatial sciences apprenticeship that will enhance the ongoing STEM activities growth agenda. As we head towards the final set-up and delivery of this, TSA views the geospatial sciences apprenticeship at levels 3 and 6, together with the recently created level 3 diploma in engineering surveying, as game changers in the drive to create a "grassroots" surveying workforce from the bottom up.”

The government announcement describes the job an apprentice will be doing and the skills required of them by the construction sector. The document, which contains detail of requirements, knowledge, skills and behaviours can be found at

The work of Geospatial Mapping and Science Specialists is described as interpretation and analysis of geospatial data and using leading edge digital technology such as laser scanning, Geographic Information Systems, remote sensing and imagery. They provide data analysis and advice for mapping, satellite navigation systems (Satnavs), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), infrastructure, the identification of local, suburban or international boundaries, military, mining and a wide range of other purposes.

The apprenticeship consists of a core and options, and apprentices are required to select one option depending upon their job role.

Geospatial Mapping and Science Specialists can specialise in:

  • Geospatial engineering
  • Hydrography
  • Utilities
  • Geospatial surveying involving the mapping of land, boundaries and land registration


The entry requirement for the apprenticeship will typically be a minimum of three A levels at Grade C or higher or their equivalent or a relevant Level 3 apprenticeship in a construction or property related discipline but the final decision is that of each employer.

Successful apprentices will gain a BSc/BSc (Hons) in a geospatial science subject that is accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors or the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors. Apprentices without level 2 English and Maths will need to achieve this level prior to taking the end-point assessment.

The apprenticeship will provide the knowledge, skills and behaviours to apply to become Members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors or the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors. This apprenticeship will typically be undertaken over five years.

This article was published in Geomatics World January/February 2018

Last updated: 28/11/2020