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Monday, 11 March, 2002, 18:26 GMT
London's sinking feeling
Aerial view of the River Thames
Satellite pictures show subsidence in the capital
Two areas of subsidence have been discovered in central London.

The sinking areas have been picked up by satellite pictures.

The subsidence appears to follow the route of the Jubilee Line Extension between London Bridge and Westminster, and a recent London Electricity tunnel from Battersea to Putney.

The pictures show the areas have sunk by more than two centimetres in five years.

Parliament Square

Experts say the subsidence could have been caused by development work or by the recent drier summers and wetter winters.

One area goes underneath or near property worth billions of pounds, including the Houses of Parliament.

It runs underneath Parliament Square and Green Park over Piccadilly and on to Bond Street.

The readings came from images collected by an instrument on a European Space Agency satellite between 1996 and 2000. P> They were analysed by NPA Satellite Mapping, British distributors of the data.

The instrument was designed to measure fluctuations in sea level by directing energy at the earth's surface and recorded how long it took for the pulses to bounce back.

Ren Capes, head of the NPA team who put together the results, said: "In Britain, subsidence causes 3m a year in damage.

"But before now, there hasn't been a way of measuring it with accuracy.

"We are not saying for definite that development caused the subsidence in these two areas.

Structural damage

"However, the map of subsidence is strikingly similar to the map of the two tunnels.

"The subsidence will have caused structural damage to buildings, but we do not know the scale of the harm, and people now need to investigate on the ground."

London Electricity said the company was not aware of any subsidence along the route of its tunnel which carries a mains cable and other communication cables.

London Underground said that a "small number of property owners" had made claims for subsidence allegedly caused by the Jubilee Line extension.

"Such claims tend to be insured and control of them is in the hands of our insurers or their loss adjusters," said a spokeswoman.

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