GeoPlace has provided expert resource to support the creation of the National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) which is being launched by the Geospatial Commission, part of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), today. NUAR is a revolutionary underground digital map to support economic growth, improve safety and reduce delays.
- Accidental strikes on the pipes and cables beneath our feet cost the UK economy £2.4 billion each year and put workers’ safety and lives at risk
- The National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) is envisaged to deliver at least £350 million per year of economic growth through increased efficiency, reduced asset strikes and reduced disruptions for citizens and businesses
- The first phase of the NUAR has been launched covering North East England, Wales and London, and the service will be growing across the the rest of England and Northern Ireland over the next few years.
GeoPlace has provided advice to the Commission as well as specifically supporting the Asset Owner Engagement Team focussing on working with local authorities. The aim is to help them understand the benefits of NUAR and put in place the necessary agreements to allow data to be provided from authorities to NUAR.
DSIT Minister, Viscount Camrose, visited industry representatives and asset owners in Newcastle for the launch to discuss the current challenges that they face and the opportunities that NUAR provides.
This first phase of NUAR contains data from the public and private sector organisations who own pipes and cables in North East England, Wales and London. This includes all of the major energy and water providers, such as Northumbrian Water, Wales and West Utilities, Southern Electric Power Distribution and National Grid, as well as smaller providers of these services, telecommunications companies, transport organisations and local authorities.
Viscount Camrose, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology said:
“The government’s National Underground Asset Register will transform how the UK manages its buried infrastructure. This first step towards UK-wide access, starting in North East England, Wales and London, has been achieved through strong collaboration between government and industry and the ingenuity of the programme team in the Geospatial Commission.
NUAR is a tangible example of how this government is driving innovation to improve public services and grow the economy - priorities of both the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, and the Prime Minister. It will help us expedite projects like new roads, new houses, and broadband roll-out.”
This first phase, also known as the ‘minimum viable product’ (MVP), is available to eligible organisations in the three areas. It is intended to complement current business practices initially and will allow users to both plan for future adoption and provide valuable feedback to enhance the service further.
Dr Steve Unger, Independent Commissioner, Geospatial Commission, said:
"This first release of NUAR is a major milestone in a programme that will benefit everyone. By using the power of location data to plan and deliver street-works more effectively, it will improve the efficiency with which we supply essential services and it will minimise the disruption experienced by other road users. Many different asset types are buried beneath our feet, owned by many different organisations, large and small. We are delighted by the number of asset owners that have recognized the value of working with us, to make the data that they hold more accessible.
And this release is just the start! Whilst it contains data from over 70 organisations, we have already received data from over 100 more, and we are working with many more than that to progress their involvement in the programme. I urge any asset owner that is not yet engaging with us to do so as soon as possible, to start benefiting from the service and ensure it best meets their needs.”
Once fully operational across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, NUAR will help improve efficiencies in construction and development, reduce disruption to the public and businesses (from extended road closures and congestion), improve workers’ safety and is envisaged to deliver at least £350 million economic growth per year.
Steven Brandwood, Director of Engagement, GeoPlace said:
“We are pleased to be able to provide our experience in working with local government to create and maintain national geospatial datasets to help get this important national data set launched.”
Simon Hamlyn, CEO, Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors, said:
“NUAR will certainly improve public welfare and society in general and is without doubt, definitely the right thing to be doing, now and for future generations.”
Colin Sawkins, Assurance and Enabling Specialist, Cadent Gas Limited, said:
“The ability to be able to virtually search for all available assets prior to excavating for a gas or water leak or other similar urgent works puts the operatives in a far superior position to aid in their avoidance of damaging underground assets.”
Bob Wood, Technical Systems Manager, Darlington Borough Council, said:
“Engineers preparing schemes will have instant access to asset owners’ records and will be able to produce a single plan, rather than compiling it from a variety of sources.
As an asset owner we will no longer have to answer individual requests for plans. Our records will be in NUAR and obtainable direct from there.”
Thomas Davies, Senior Civil Engineer, Powys County Council said:
“This is a hugely positive step into utility information and will speed up how we access information.”
There is estimated to be around 4 million kilometres of buried pipes and cables in the UK, and a hole dug every 7 seconds to install, fix, maintain or repair these assets that are critical in keeping the water running, gas and electricity flowing and our telecommunications lines connected. Approximately 1 in every 65 holes dug results in an accidental asset strike (c. 60,000 a year), causing around £2.4 billion worth of economic cost, putting workers’ lives at risk and disrupting our day-to-day lives.
There are 650+ asset owners across the public and private sectors (including energy, water and telcos) who hold data about their own assets, which they are required by law to share for the purposes of ‘safe digging’. However, currently there is no standardised method to do this with multiple organisations having to be contacted for each dig, providing information in varied formats, scales, quality and on different timelines resulting in a complex and inefficient process for installing, maintaining, operating and repairing buried assets.
NUAR is a government-led programme creating a single, comprehensive data-sharing platform on the location and condition of underground assets. The fundamental purpose of NUAR is to streamline the data-sharing process, reduce the risk of potentially lethal utility asset strikes and promote more efficient management and maintenance of underground assets.
The MVP will provide the first cohort of users in North East England, Wales and London with access to the emerging platform. In line with the Government Service Standard, the Geospatial Commission is committed to iterative delivery where users are placed at the centre of product and service design, and are given access to core functionality early and often to help ensure the service best meets user needs and expectations. NUAR will be iteratively enhanced until it is fully operational, including the service’s features, as well as data completeness, coverage and currency, and user base
NUAR will operate across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland already benefits from a system of this kind and the Geospatial Commission has worked closely with colleagues in the Scottish Government on this development.
Following a competitive procurement round, the Geospatial Commission appointed Atkins to deliver the ‘build phase’ of NUAR. Atkins are working with Ordnance Survey, 1Spatial, GeoPlace and the Greater London Authority.
This NUAR ‘build phase’ follows two pilots in North East England and London which ran between 2019 and 2021. The North East England pilot was initiated following Northumbrian Water Group’s 2018 Innovation Festival, with Ordnance Survey leading the delivery. The London pilot was led by the Greater London Authority.
Notes to editors
Further stakeholder comments can be found below:
Peter Crosland, National Civil Engineering Director, Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) said:
“CECA is delighted to be part of the NUAR initiative and we are really excited to see this next phase of the project rolled out. As a trade organisation with health, safety and wellbeing at its heart, the NUAR programme is seen as key to ensuring industry makes the necessary significant improvements in the delivery of all aspects of utility infrastructure. Adopting NUAR should provide a focus for working in a safer and more efficient manner”
Mark Lawton, Head of Engineering Survey, Skanska said:
"NUAR will ensure that utilities are captured and displayed in a digital manner to aid those that use, build and maintain this critical part of everyday life. NUAR will reduce service strikes, repeat work and bring the historic and future routes of utilities into the digital age. This is a huge step forward for UK PLC and a benefit to everyone."
Jo Parker, Water Industry Consultant, Watershed Associates said:
“I am so excited to know that NUAR is going live. I have been involved in the issue of making buried asset data available quickly and easily for 20 years and have seen several projects fail so to see this project deliver what has been needed for so long is just fantastic.”
Nicole Metje, Director of the National Buried Infrastructure Facility, University of Birmingham said:
“Not knowing exactly where our buried assets are has been a challenge for the construction industry and the asset owners. Statutory records provide some information, but they are often stored in different formats with no unified data labelling.
When doing any excavation, it is vital to know where existing buried assets are to minimise the risk of damage, and health and safety impacts. Bringing statutory utility records onto one National Underground Asset Register provides the first step to support the industry, make them safer and reduce costs.”
Kevin Reeves, Industry Executive, Energy & Utilities, Microsoft said:
“NUAR is a vital UK asset that is demonstrating value in sharing data across organisations and importantly across sectors. The model NUAR has adopted is something we can learn from in Critical National Infrastructure, placing the highest priority on security and privacy to promote trust. NUAR is one of the best examples of national scale data sharing we have in the UK right now.”
Mark Enzer OBE FREng, Strategic Advisor, Mott MacDonald said:
“It is fantastic to see NUAR leading the way in collaboration for meaningful cross-sector data-sharing with a really clear purpose. Where NUAR leads for underground assets, the wider industry must surely follow for our national infrastructure assets, networks and systems.”
Melissa Zanocco, Head of Programmes, Infrastructure Client Group said:
“NUAR is forging a path that is critical for a National Digital Twin, demonstrating how we can collect shared data across organisational boundaries at a national level. It will help with making better and safer interventions, contributing to our aim of transforming infrastructure performance to achieve better outcomes for people and nature.”
Karl Simons OBE, Chief Futurist, FYLD said:
“I am delighted that after over seven years of involvement in this NUAR programme, we now have the ability to 'bring to the surface' a level of real time risk visualisation never seen before, for those about to interact with our underground sub-surface assets across the UK.”
James Harris, Chief Executive Officer, one.network said:
“We are excited to see the NUAR vision come a step closer to reality. Unlocking underground asset data will give rise to a plethora of use cases and enormous benefits to the utility sector and beyond. We at one.network look forward to facilitating access to this valuable information in due course, enabling the 15,000+ daily operational users of the one.network platform to do their jobs more safely and more efficiently.”
Sandy Twynholm, Lead Officer Business Innovation Information Systems & Administration, Newcastle City Council said:
“Newcastle City Council has been involved in the North East Pilots from the start, and has been impressed with how the project has been designed, managed and coordinated with end users in mind. We have every confidence that tangible benefits can be realised, such as reduction in project downtime due to asset strikes, administration savings and removing reliance on paper maps. We look forward to fully testing the system and to feedback our findings.”
Barb Cederberg, Chair, Underground Utilities Mapping Project Team said:
“Damages to underground utilities must be reduced. NUAR and the Minnesota Underground Utilities Mapping Project (MN UUMPT), in the United States, have this common goal. During the past few years, NUAR and MN UUMPT have discussed our similar projects. Both efforts are committed to providing design engineers, utility operators/locators and excavators the most accurate underground utility maps. NUAR especially assisted MN UUMPT on a framework for agreements required for stakeholders to participate in the process.”
Denise Beazley, Program Director, Wellington Underground Asset Map, Wellington City Council said:
"Understanding what’s beneath the ground is vital to avoiding asset strikes, delivering underground infrastructure safely and efficiently and positioning our places for climate change adaptation and urban growth.
Wellington City Council has been appreciative of NUAR’s global leadership and open approach to sharing their lessons and documentation. This has helped our business case and programme of works progress faster. We will continue to pay close attention to the progress of NUAR, and share."
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