This first phase of the National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) – also known as the minimum viable product – contains data from the public and private sector organisations that own pipes and cables in north-east England, Wales and London. It includes all the major energy and water providers, such as Northumbrian Water, Wales and West Utilities, Southern Electric Power Distribution and National Grid, as well as telecommunications companies, transport organisations and local authorities.

Geospatial Commission independent commissioner Dr Steve Unger said the first release of NUAR would 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 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 they hold more accessible,” said Unger.

Atkins digital director Guy Ledger said the NUAR was a huge opportunity for productivity gains in the UK construction sector, and helped move it further towards a digital future.

“Every building and infrastructure project starts with a hole in the ground and, with NUAR, the risks, pain and inefficiencies of planning works and undertaking excavations will be significantly reduced,” he said. “And of course, we shouldn’t underestimate the benefits of reduced CO2 and improved air and noise quality that will result from fewer utility strikes.”

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 £350m in economic growth per year.

Accidental strikes on underground pipes and cables currently cost the UK economy £2.4bn each year and put workers’ safety and lives at risk.

Atkins was appointed in 2021 to deliver the Build Phase of NUAR, working with Ordnance Survey, 1Spatial, GeoPlace and the Greater London Authority. This phase consists of building a production minimum viable product, then enhancing and rolling it out to the remaining regions in England and to Northern Ireland.