Cabinet Office Minister Lord True has launched the next phase of a scheme to digitally map underground pipes and cables.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen joined Lord True at Northumbria Water’s water treatment centre in Darlington to meet industry representatives as the National Underground Asset Register entered its build phase.

The Tees Valley will be one of the first areas to have its underground network assets – including those providing vital services such as gas, water, electricity and telecommunications – mapped by the project.

It aims to tackle the annual £2.4billion cost of accidental utility damage while revolutionising construction and development by improving efficiencies and workers’ safety and reducing disruption to projects which otherwise might fall victim to unforeseen ground conditions.

It will also help ensure these underground services can be efficiently maintained and delivered to homes and businesses. The project is being built in partnership between industry and Government, including its Geospacial Commission, over the next three years.

Ben Houchen said: “I am absolutely delighted that this innovative new map of what lies beneath our feet is being launched and rolled out in Teesside. This new service will mean less mistakes are made when digging holes and less disruption to local people.

“Across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool we’re making huge strides; we are transforming northern Europe’s biggest brownfield site at Teesworks creating thousands of jobs, and this new map will be incredibly helpful.”

Lord True CBE, said: “This new digital map of the UK’s underground utilities assets demonstrates our commitment to putting innovation at the forefront of the UK’s economic recovery and ambition to Build Back Better.”

Nigel Clifford, Deputy Chair of the Geospatial Commission, said: “Our National Underground Asset Register will be a momentous step towards providing the UK with a shared national data asset of significant value. I am proud of the collaboration with industry that we have so far established as part of our preparatory work and look forward to it continuing.”

Tamsin Lishman, Asset Management Director at Northumbrian Water Group said: “It is incredible to see this project grow from an idea in a tent at our Innovation Festival 2018 to now being adopted and developed by the UK Government.

“Once completed, this project will be potentially life-saving. NUAR will improve safety for our people and those working across the utility sector, as the risk of striking other people’s assets will be reduced.

“Our assets are the physical infrastructure underground that help us to provide our vital services for our customers.

“NUAR will also enable more efficient ways of working, which will also save the UK economy millions of pounds a year, as well as making services even better for our customers.

“We were honoured to be able to welcome Lord True, Ben Houchen, Councillor Scott and the Geospatial Commission to our sites to show them how great of a difference NUAR will make to all utility companies.

“This initiative shows the willingness of utilities and local authorities to share information with each other for the benefits of our customers.

“We can’t wait to see what the future holds for NUAR, and hope to see more successful outcomes like this from our Innovation Festival 2021 next month.”

  • In the next BUSINESSiQ magazine, out on Friday September 24th, we talk to Heidi Mottram, one of the driving forces behind the Asset Register. Contact for magazine details