United Utilities pumps £817m into essential North West services

The main road through Alston will re-open by the end of this week, say water engineers installing the town’s new water mains.

United Utilities will finish laying its upgraded pipe in Front Street and are planning to re-instate the roadway by Friday evening (May 25).

The new road surface will only be a temporary one, constructed of tarmac instead of the original cobbles. The cobbles will eventually be re-laid in their original position by Cumbria County Council following a re-generation scheme which the council is consulting local people about at the moment.

The work in Front Street is part of a large project to replace around 2.1km of Alston’s water mains, some of which date back around 100 years. It is due to be completely finished on schedule by the end of June.

The next phase will start on Tuesday May 29, when engineers start work on pipes in the side street known as Kings Arms Lane. Kings Arms Lane will be closed for up to two weeks, but access for residents will be maintained at all times.

After that, all the remaining work in the town will be completed using traffic lights.

Customer liaison officer Danny Eastham thanked businesses and residents for their patience: “We have been trying to keep people informed about the progress of our work, but we realise it’s been very inconvenient. Alston is a beautiful old town but for safety reasons, we’ve had no choice but to close its narrow main street while we work in it.

“Once we’re finished we will leave homes and businesses with a much better and more resilient water supply which will lastWater firm United Utilities has pumped more than £817m of investment into the pipes, reservoirs and treatment works which deliver water and wastewater services to the North West’s seven million people.

The money – revealed in its annual results today (Thursday May 25) - represents just 12 months of work in the firm’s record-breaking five year investment programme totalling £3.8bn.

The firm’s results also reveal that a radical new approach to running its business is reaping benefits for customers.

Innovation like advanced technology, data management and energy efficiency means the company is better able to manage its huge geographically complex networks as one smart integrated system – part of a project labelled Systems Thinking.

Customer complaints have dropped by a third in two years and the company is also considered an industry leading company following annual assessments carried out by the Environment Agency.

As well as winning water industry and other awards for customer service, United Utilities came top of all the UK’s water companies in the latest quarterly customer survey by regulator Ofwat.

And in the region’s brand popularity stakes, only perennial favourites Marks & Spencer and John Lewis were more highly regarded by consumers.

The company has met leakage targets for 10 consecutive years, and has cut leakage by half since the 1990s. Reducing leaks remains a top priority and the use of satellite imagery to detect leaks, and in-pipe assessment techniques are being explored.

United Utilities is also the first water company to train a sniffer dog to specifically help pinpoint problem pipes in rural areas where the water does not always show on the surface.

We are making efficiency savings, generated by working smarter and more innovatively. We have committed to sharing these efficiency savings with customers through investing an additional £250m into improving the long term resilience of the region’s water network, such as plans to improve the huge Haweswater Aqueduct which links water supplies in the Lake District to much of the rest of the North West.

At the same time, because it operates in some of the most deprived areas of the UK, United Utilities is considered one of the UK’s leading water companies when it comes to supporting customers in financial hardship.

More than 100,000 people are now being supported on one of United Utilities affordability schemes, with more than 50,000 receiving tailored assistance through the company’s priority services scheme.

Steve Mogford, Chief Executive Officer, said:

“We continue to put customers first. Our approach to vulnerability and affordability is setting new benchmarks for the industry and our sustained improvements in customer satisfaction positions us as a leader in the sector.

“We are using advanced technology from around the world and across different sectors to accelerate our implementation of Systems Thinking is delivering better service, greater resilience and improved efficiency. This is contributing to outperformance in the current regulatory period which we are sharing with customers and gives us confidence heading into the next regulatory period and beyond.

“While our industry faces many challenges, we intend to rise to all of them, building on the trust our customers place on us to provide an outstanding service, invest wisely to deliver additional benefits and offer exceptional value for money. This philosophy is central to our strategy and will help deliver long term value for customers, the environment and for shareholders.”

Picture Caption: 'Snipe' - the UK's first leakage sniffer dog.

United Utilities has met leakage targets for 10 consecutive years, and has cut leakage by half since the 1990s. Reducing leaks remains a top priority and the use of satellite imagery to detect leaks, and in-pipe assessment techniques are being explored. for years to come. We’d like to thank people for bearing with us,” he said.