road works

National map of buried pipes and cables draws nearer with contract awards

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Plans for a UK national map of buried cables and pipes are moving forward with the award of contracts to start building the National Underground Assets Register (NUAR). Easy access to this data will bring huge benefits to utility companies and the construction industry.

Following earlier pilot projects, the government’s Geospatial Commission has appointed Atkins to deliver the Build Phase of NUAR, initially providing what is described as “a production minimal viable product” for the North East of England, Wales and London before the scheme is rolled out more widely. It will cover gas, water, electricity and telecommunications.

It’s estimated that accidental strikes on underground pipes and cables cost the economy around £2.4bn a year, inaccurate location information being a common cause. Once operational, NUAR is expected to deliver around £350m per year in benefits by avoiding accidental asset strikes, improving the safety and efficiency of works and better data sharing.

Atkins will be supported by 1Spatial, a Cambridge-based specialist in managing location data. A recurrent challenge when combining data from many sources is that they are not mutually compatible. 1Spatial will build on its existing software to develop a ‘data management and data ingestion platform’ that will allow many hundreds of asset owners to upload and automatically transform their underground data assets into a consistent format.

The Geospatial Commission will be working with the Welsh government, Tees Valley Combined Authority and Greater London Authority to deliver the programme, which will later be extended to the remaining regions in England and to Northern Ireland.

Scotland is not included as it already has a similar system - the Scottish Road Works Register - but the Commission says it will continue to work closely with colleagues in the Scottish government on future developments.

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