Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by National Joint Utilities Group (OS 20)

  The primary use of Ordnance Survey mapping products amongst the utilities is its use as background mapping for the location of utilities' assets relative to OS features and therefore providing information for safe excavation for both the owning utility and third parties undertaking work which may interfere with buried assets.

  The NJUG/OS copyright agreement charges a copyright fee to NJUG members who are party to the agreement for the use of the background mapping in connection with their business as a utility allowing the exchange of location data between contractors and other utility undertakers. At present the agreement does not include the purchase, maintenance or leasing of the mapping data.

  NJUG wish to draw the attention of the Urban Affairs Sub-committee to the following concerns over the future charging mechanisms under consideration by Ordnance Survey and its effect on the utilities.


  The introduction of Ordnance Survey's new digital mapping system MasterMap, under the leasing and copyright pricing model proposed will reduce the flexibility currently enjoyed under the present arrangements and represent a considerable price increase to utilities. It is estimated that cost increases of between 25 per cent and 200 per cent may be incurred depending on how data is currently purchased and maintained. This is currently under discussion with Ordnance Survey.

  There are also considerable internal costs to be considered for a utility changing to the new background mapping dataset or accommodating accuracy improvements that require adjustment of the utilities asset data layer to preserve the relative location accuracy of their plant. These costs need to be considered by Ordnance Survey when assessing the market and business justification for the introduction of new products or the use of new technology.

  The utilities operate under a commercial and regulatory framework, and investment decisions are subject to a rigorous assessment of business need. Price increases as proposed by Ordnance Survey and the eventual withdrawal of support for the existing Landline product will be difficult to justify by the utilities in terms of increased business benefit.

  Potentially the introduction of new technology could facilitate easier exchange of data by utilising a common background mapping data set maintained to the same standard throughout the utilities. However unless this can be achieved within a pricing model that can be justified in terms of the business benefit it is likely to inhibit the progress of safety improvements and better methods of information exchange.


  The Government has been keen to promote competition in the utility sector for the overall benefit of the customer. The effect of high leasing and copyright costs of the mapping database is to discourage new entrants from entering the utility market and to encourage the use of different mapping datasets or alternative means of displaying plant location.

  Increased costs either have to be paid for by improved efficiencies within an already heavily regulated utility sector or by increased costs to the customer.


  NJUG would welcome more transparency of pricing for Ordnance Survey Service Level Agreements and Collective Agreements. Pricing models need to be flexible enough for customers to pay for the use of mapping datasets according to their business requirements rather than to fund the aspirations of Ordnance Survey. Introduction of new technology with clear business benefits for utilities are welcome but the business case for increased costs for the utilities must take into account the internal costs of migration and be fully justified.


  The prospect of the loss of support for the current Landline product and the potential cost of MasterMap and associated migration costs has prompted NJUG members to consider the use of alternative mapping service providers. Information will be gathered in 2002 to consider the viability and costs of such a move.

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Prepared 24 June 2002