Scroll Top

Automation in the pipeline

Automation in the pipelineAutomation in the pipeline

The perfect storm

As the climate crisis takes hold, flooding is becoming increasingly frequent and more severe. This can cause widespread damage and along with population growth puts the existing sewer system under increased pressure. It’s clear that going forward, the condition of sewers, culverts and drains is critical for the resilience of our planet and its people.

These assets have great power to alleviate or exacerbate the impact of increased rainfall on homes and businesses, essential infrastructure, and the environment. And in these days of needing to do more for less, the ability to quickly and accurately extract value from CCTV survey data has never been greater.

Predominantly manual and largely reactive, the current industry approach to CCTV inspections and sewer rehabilitation planning is time-consuming and monotonous, which inevitably leads to human error. It’s also fairly subjective, which makes it prone to inconsistency. Add to that increased demand and customer expectations, as well as an industry-wide skills shortage at a time when budgets are at breaking point, and we’ve got the perfect storm.

A digital dawn

Atkins’ pioneering Rehabilitation Automation Tool for Sewers and Stormwater (RATS) significantly automates the CCTV review process, making it up to 50% faster and cheaper than manual methods. Using a standardised and reliable approach, RATS processes coded .XML data (from CCTV survey contractors) and recommends appropriate rehabilitation solutions. It’s also sophisticated enough to automatically flag up anomalies and complex defects, which are referred to an engineer to review.

RATS can recommend five options for sewer rehabilitation:
– Full length re-line
– Excavation
Patch Repair
– Re-round and re-line
– Engineer review


Developed by engineers for engineers, RATS draws on the extensive experience and expertise built by the Atkins team over the last 20 years. RATS is extremely versatile, and can be applied to the water sector, as well as highways, rail and even estate management – anywhere with a substantial drainage system and a responsibility for its maintenance. The technology is suitable for culverts, drains and sewers and works effectively across a range of materials, including concrete, clay, pitch fibre, cast iron and asbestos cement.

As part of an ongoing Environment Agency project, RATS eliminated the need to review more than 16km out of 55km of surveys, freeing up the equivalent of nearly three weeks of inspectors’ time. Significant time and resource savings like this enable businesses to act on the data quickly and undertake improvements with the greatest value.

The automation provided by RATS gives clients a better oversight of their networks and enables them to make proactive data-driven decisions, support future investment planning, and prioritise works appropriately.

Customised applications

While originally designed to align with the UK Manual of Sewer Condition Classification, one of the key strengths of RATS is its capacity for adaptation and customisation to suit exact client specifications. As standard, each application of RATS is configured to the client’s coding scheme, but beyond that, it can be tailored to suit other client needs, including those outside the UK.

Atkins recently worked with a client in the US, where RATS was adapted to work alongside the North American Pipeline Assessment Certification Program (PACP). It has significant differences in defining the location of defects, as well as additional codes denoting the nature of the defect, and the requirement to identify cross-bores. Notably, PACP also uses imperial measurements, so a conversion to metric units was built into RATS in order to streamline the process.Automation in the pipeline

In addition to customisation of RATS, Atkins offers a range of add-ons to suit client requirements. As part of our current review of 350km of CCTV survey data for Thames Water, we are now producing Sewer Rehabilitation Briefs (SRBs) which are produced if an asset meets either of the client’s key drivers: if it is either not structurally sound (or is likely to fail soon) or if the defect identified is likely to be causing flow restrictions. Using a VBA script, the main structure of the SRB document is created automatically, with key asset information and RATS recommendations applied. An Atkins engineer assesses the feasibility of the works, taking in various considerations specific to that particular site. The SRB is then sent directly to the client for approval, and on to contractors to price up and undertake the works agreed.

Thames Water’s Asset Performance Insight Manager, Chris Hinton, illustrated how valuable RATS has been:

“At Thames Water we’re always looking for innovative ideas. Using Atkins’ RATS digital tool and engineering expertise has enabled us to efficiently scale up our planned CCTV survey programme to identify and prioritise sewer rehabilitation, while maintaining high confidence in the proposed rehab solutions.”

Automation in the pipelineAn automated future

Our focus now is to investigate the possibility of integrating RATS with emerging AI technologies that are being used for defect recognition and coding. This would significantly remove subjective decision-making and expedite routine inspections and solution planning.

We’re also exploring how we can encompass more client considerations into RATS calculations, particularly the integration of carbon assessment and accounting. This will support data-informed decision making across every aspect of proposed improvement schemes, so that the best possible solution can be identified – for customers and the environment.

RATS is driving an exciting, automated future for sewer inspection and rehabilitation, and paving the way for collaborations to maximise the potential of new technologies. Continuous enhancements and improvements will enable this innovative tool to be scaled-up and streamlined, saving clients even more time and resource, while remaining fundamentally flexible in order to meet the specific needs of different sectors throughout the world.

Discover RATS:

For further information please contact Chris Mollett (ch***********@at**********.com) or Andy Taylor (an*********@at**********.com) or visit our website at

Privacy Preferences
When you visit our website, it may store information through your browser from specific services, usually in form of cookies. Here you can change your privacy preferences. Please note that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our website and the services we offer.