Guest blog: what’s going on beneath our feet?

Greg Garner, Asset Owner Engagement Manager for Wales, Atkins

Darllenwch y dudalen hon yn Gymraeg

The National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) is a great example of how digital services, data and technology can be used to improve the lives of people within Wales, and fully aligns with the Digital Strategy for Wales. Find out more about the potential benefits and the progress made so far.


Every day, we rely on a wide range of services that we often take for granted. Our national infrastructure keeps the lights on, water flowing, homes heated, internet connected and transport moving. 

This infrastructure relies on an estimated 4 million km of buried assets such as cables, pipes, sewers, and ducts to keep things working. Every construction and infrastructure project must source information on these assets when planning and carrying out excavation works. However, there is no platform currently available in Wales that allows consistent access to data related to underground assets. Each utility service provider holds data relating to their assets but the means of accessing this data and in what format is inconsistent because of differing software systems and different ways of capturing and storing data.

The current situation is unsafe as lack of access to comprehensive information may cause workers to dig through live cables and pipes with risk to life. Furthermore, finding unknown buried infrastructure whilst digging or accidentally striking through a pipe or cable causes unnecessary project delays. Consequently, streets and roads are closed for longer causing traffic congestion that negatively impacts local economies and residents. 

To solve this problem the Geospatial Commission is working closely with the Welsh Government to develop the National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) platform. This will be a secure, auditable, trusted, and sustainable digital platform which provides a consistent and interactive map of buried asset data within Wales. 

How will NUAR benefit people and business in Wales?

The main benefits that NUAR will provide for the people and the economy of Wales are:

  • SAFE DIGGING: Excavator Operators can rapidly access location data for all major utility providers in the area, on site and before they dig.
  • ON-SITE EFFICIENCY SAVINGS: Planners can leverage asset location data and adopt a more efficient approach to scheduling on-site activities and resources.
  • SITE PLANNING EFFICIENCY: People are subject to less street works disruption, such as noise, emissions, traffic restrictions and utility downtime.
  • DATA EXCHANGE AND BACK-OFFICE EFFICIENCY SAVINGS will accelerate your digital transformation journey. NUAR will augment your ways of working alongside your existing legacy systems, and will help improve the way works are planned and carried out across the whole of Wales.

NUAR will work for the economy, the people and public services in Wales and will help enable Wales to grow back stronger after the COVID pandemic. It will help deliver modern services for Wales through digital transformation and a new approach to providing accurate search data on the buried assets underneath our feet. In fact, NUAR is estimated to deliver around £350 million in savings per year to the UK economy.

National Underground Asset Register: unlocking value for industry and the wider economy


What has NUAR got to do with data and collaboration?

NUAR is a great example of how we can use digital services, data and technology to improve the lives of people within Wales. It fits perfectly into the Welsh Government’s Digital Strategy for Wales and will be a great example of how organisations can collaborate effectively by sharing data through a secure digital platform.

Collaboration around data is central to the Digital Strategy for Wales in that digital change is about being open, using data to solve problems, and designing services that meet the needs of the end user.

“NUAR fits alongside other work in the public sector in Wales, such as the Strategic Infrastructure Steering group (SIS), Data Map Wales and the Metro programme. NUAR will also enable our town centres to become more agile economically by helping businesses (utilities and infrastructure bodies) to work cooperatively and improving the digital economy by building a better infrastructure fit for the digital future.”

Glyn Jones, Chief Digital Officer for Welsh Government

NUAR will help facilitate a culture of collaboration between central and local government, local authorities, utilities companies and anyone concerned with what is going on beneath our feet.

“Whilst the technology development for NUAR is complex and agreeing a common data model across 650 asset owners is challenging and interesting, NUAR is mostly about developing trust and collaborations across a very wide range of public and private sector organisations. We have engaged with colleagues from all devolved administrations from the outset and are truly delighted that the Welsh Government has agreed so early to share data with the NUAR team to progress towards a National Underground Asset Register for the benefit of Welsh citizens and businesses.”

Holger Kessler the Geospatial Commission’s Stakeholder and Communication Lead

Where are we now with NUAR in Wales?

Wales is part of the first phase of the NUAR project alongside London and the North-East of England. By March 2023 the NUAR platform will be fully operational and accessible to asset owners and their supply chains within Wales. NUAR will then be enhanced and rolled out to the remaining regions in England and Northern Ireland. Scotland already benefits from a system of this kind in the Scottish Road Works Register and The NUAR Team works closely with colleagues in Scotland to ensure close alignment between the systems.

To date the following asset owners have signed up to NUAR within Wales:

  • Welsh Government
  • Welsh Government Transport
  • South Wales and North and Mid Wales Trunk Road Agents
  • Transport for Wales
  • Powys, Caerphilly, Wrexham, Denbighshire, Anglesey and Swansea Local Authorities
  • Western Power Distribution
  • Wales and West Utilities
  • Natural Resources Wales

We are actively engaging with all other asset owners within Wales and hope to get them signed up within the next few months.

We will also be setting up User Research Groups throughout the build phase of the project, which will cover topics such as data quality, user functionality, future use cases, data sharing and security. If you or any of your colleagues would like to find out more about NUAR or would like to join these research groups, then please get in touch: