Today, Viscount Camrose announced that the National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) - a digital map of underground pipes and cables that will revolutionise the way we install, maintain, operate and repair our buried infrastructure - can now be accessed in its first UK locations
This is a major step in the delivery of NUAR which, as a team, we are very proud of. The service is starting to deliver the core functionality to meet the intended ‘safe dig’ use case, as well as data from over 80 asset owners in the first 3 regions (North East England, Wales and London). This includes all of the major energy and water providers, as well as smaller providers of these services, telecommunications companies, transport organisations and local authorities. I would like to take this opportunity to say “thank you” to those trailblazing organisations who have been the vanguard of NUAR, collaborating with us to get to this point. But it should be remembered that this is the ‘minimum viable product’ (MVP), and that there is lots more to come!
So, why have we launched an MVP rather than wait and deliver a fully operational service in the future?
Well…a key reference point for us is the Government Service Standard - which helps teams to create and run great public services. An important point here is that services should ‘Iterate and improve frequently’. As a team, we really believe that ‘Using agile methods means getting real people using your service as early as possible'. Then making improvements throughout the lifetime of the service’.
The MVP is not a final end product, it is a key, exciting stage in the design and development of NUAR involving real users as part of an interactive learning process to refine functionality and processes in preparation for business use. Whilst the MVP can be used in business-as-usual practices, it is intended to complement rather than replace them at this stage, and allows users to both plan for future adoption and provide valuable feedback to enhance the service further. Importantly though, as with existing practices around statutory records, NUAR is never intended to replace requirements for ground investigation and safe digging practices as outlined in HSG47.
So what is coming next?
Well…development of new features, and refinement of existing ones, will continue (informed and supported by our asset owner communities). Additional asset owner datasets will be added in the three initial areas, as well as improvements to data currency. We will also be expanding the coverage of the service to include the remaining areas of England and Northern Ireland. Coverage will be increased in these areas iteratively - as and when we have a critical mass of data in each area.
I am pleased to say that not only are we publishing data from 80+ asset owners today, we have already received data from nearly 100 more organisations and agreements for us to be able to share this from over 70. And for any asset owners out there not yet sharing their data with us - the sooner we have it, the sooner we can make NUAR available for use in your area!
We are also working with a cross-section of stakeholders to define the NUAR future sustainable operating model, which includes:
- Developing a charging framework so we can apply a proportionate charge to help maintain the service over the longer term
- Exploring potential legislative reform
- Considering opportunities for the wider market to enhance the NUAR service
We have been working alongside asset owners and other stakeholders since 2019 to develop the MVP service, security measures, data model and legal frameworks, and have been ably supported by a supply chain of world-leading experts in their fields. We have also been learning from previous projects such as VISTA, Mapping the Underworld, Project Iceberg and HADES, as well as from those who have created similar services such as the Scottish Roadworks Commissioner VAULT system and operational systems in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.
In addition to this, we have been testing the NUAR service with 40+ users for the last four months to ensure we were ready for this launch. The results of our collaborative approach has resulted in extremely positive feedback from this group - with satisfaction scores of 8.18/10 and likelihood to recommend scores of 9.63/10.
If you’re asking ‘what does this mean for me’?
- Asset owners in London, North East England and Wales who are fully signed up to NUAR are being emailed details on how to create accounts for their teams (including those who work on their behalf). We really hope that once you start using NUAR, you are as happy with the MVP as the current cohort of testers.
- Asset owners in other areas of England or Northern Ireland who have fully signed up for NUAR - we will be rolling the service out to your area as soon as possible (when we have a critical mass of datasets). We will stay in touch with you via user groups and email to keep you updated.
- Asset owners operating in England, Wales or Northern Ireland and have not yet fully signed up to NUAR, please contact us by email at email@example.com to ensure you have an opportunity to feed into the development and refinement of this new service, as well as start benefiting from it, as soon as possible.
- Contractors working on behalf of an asset owner, you may be able to access NUAR if the asset owner is fully signed up and you are carrying out works in North East England, Wales or London. Please contact the asset owner you are working for directly who will be able to advise you of their status and whether they can grant you access at this time. If you carry out work on behalf of an asset owner in another area, unfortunately, you will have to wait until we have delivered NUAR in that area (once we have a critical mass of data). Keep an eye on the Geospatial Commission’s Twitter and LinkedIn accounts for updates on the programme.
- If you are not an asset owner or someone who works on their behalf - as set out in our response to the public consultation we held in 2022, 75% of respondents stated it could be beneficial to expand the permitted use cases for NUAR beyond statutory undertaking, which would allow access to other user groups. We are committed to exploring these opportunities. If you would like to share your thoughts, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.