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First pipe and cable maps go live

The government has launched a digital map that it claims will transform the installation and maintenance of underground pipes and cables.

The National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) has been produced by the Geospatial Commission, which is part of the Department for Science, Innovation & Technology (DSIT).

This first phase of NUAR contains data from organisations that own pipes and cables in northeast England, Wales and London. This includes all of the major energy and water providers, telecommunications companies, transport organisations and local authorities.

This first phase, also known as the ‘minimum viable product’ (MVP), is available to eligible organisations in the three regions.

NUAR will ultimately operate across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland already has its own system of this kind.

It is estimated that there are around four million kilometres of buried pipes and cables in the UK. A hole is dug every seven seconds to install, fix, maintain or repair these assets. Approximately 1 in every 65 holes dug results in an accidental asset strike – 60,000 a year or once every seven minutes – costing an estimated £2.4bn and putting workers’ lives at risk.

Steve Unger, commissioner of the 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 recognised the value of working with us, to make the data that they hold more accessible.

“And this release is just the start. While it contains data from over 80 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.”

Simon Hamlyn, chief executive of the 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.”

The Geospatial Commission appointed Atkins to deliver the build phase of NUAR. Atkins is working with Ordnance Survey, 1Spatial, GeoPlace and the Greater London Authority.

The build phase follows two pilots in North East England and London which ran between 2019 and 2021. The northeast 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.