Building a framework for buried services (National Underground Assets Group, UK)
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Building a framework for buried services (National Underground Assets Group, UK)

The NUAG will champion better coordination between utility companies, highway authorities and other interested parties and establish best practise guidelines.

September 23, 2005 -- A new national underground assets group (NUAG) has been established to champion better coordination between utility companies, highway authorities and other interested parties.

Its aim is to produce best practice guidelines for the collection, exchange, reuse and recording of information on underground assets. This is vital to improve the way work on underground assets is carried out – particularly where it involves street works.

The pipes, cables and other equipment buried beneath our roads provide the services essential to modern society. Information on where these services are located is important to ensure the safety of workers who need to dig up the road to reach the assets, as well as the safety of the general public. This information exchange will also enable work to be planned to help minimise disruption and inconvenience to road users and the community.

The group will build on the findings of previous trials, pilots and reports to define and advocate industry-wide standards and protocols for recording and exchanging information. Each member of the group represents a key section of the industry – from utility companies and highway authorities, civil engineers and surveyors to the geographic information community and regulators. This mix of expertise will facilitate open dialogue across a broad spectrum of disciplines while promoting a collaborative approach.

The group consists of prominent figures from the following organisations: Department for Transport (DfT), National Joint Utilities Group (NJUG), Highways Authorities and Utilities Committee (HAUC (UK), Institution of Civil Engineers/Surveyors (ICE/ICES), UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR), Pipeline Industry Guild (PIG), Ordnance Survey, Association for Geographic Information (AGI), County Surveyors Society (CSS) and the National Street Works Highways Group (NSWHG).

One of the first items under discussion will be the use of the Digital National Framework (DNF) – a set of principles that create a basis for sharing data. The aim of the DNF is to enable different sources of information, related to any given location, to be easily and reliably integrated and employed. Using geography as a common factor, it is intended that all those with an interest in services located underground will be able to work more safely and effectively together.

Minister for Transport, Stephen Ladyman MP, says: “Tackling congestion is a priority at national and local level, and managing and coordinating works in the road more effectively has an important part to play in that. That's why I'm very pleased that all the stakeholders have got together – and will work together with the Department – to improve cooperation and the exchange of information. It will be another step in improving the management of the road network, to the benefit of all road users and local communities."

“The adoption of a common framework for referencing all aspects of the national infrastructure is key to providing the right platform for the sharing of information between utilities, local and central government,” says Ordnance Survey Director and ICE/ICES Buried Services Board member James Brayshaw. “Having the capability to share information is fundamental to all engineering organisations involved in designing, building, maintaining and operating the infrastructure. Combined with legislation such as the Traffic Management Act and pressure from the public for more coordination of road works, there is a greater need than ever before to manage infrastructure services effectively.”

“This proactive group is very timely and welcome,” states Les Guest of NJUG. “Utilities are always looking for effective ways to locate assets and practical ways to improve the coordination of our works. We are pleased to be part of this innovative group and look forward to developing new ideas that will benefit the whole of the UK."

This is echoed by Richard Glenister from Pipelines Industry Guild who says: “The creation of this group is an extremely important step in ultimately developing a coordinated approach between all asset owners and the many companies and individuals undertaking excavations. All the organisations involved have experience in different aspects of this initiative. For the Guild, this was to develop the framework for a ‘one-call system’ and the lessons learnt from this and the other initiatives will assist the group in fulfilling its objectives.”

Chris Tunstall, Deputy Chief Executive of Durham County Council, Chair of the CSS Engineering Committee, and Highways Chair of HAUC(UK), says: “We are all responsible for making sure that people can use the highway as part of their daily lives. Reliable information is the key to effective coordination of works on the highway. All too often roadworks and even utility works are delayed or even frustrated if information about apparatus is difficult to find or late in being produced. This initiative will help to identify statutory users with apparatus within a works site and speed the flow of records to everyone involved. It will build on other recent initiatives to improve the quality of records and techniques to locate underground assets. It will be a real help in our efforts to reduce disruption”

In anticipation of requirements flowing from the Traffic Management Act, building on the work currently being undertaken within industry and government the group will be working actively over the next year to develop common standards and identify new ways to exchange information effectively.

Notes for editors: