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The north of England’s gas distributor, Northern Gas Networks (NGN) has hit an historic milestone as 100% of its gas replacement works are now delivered by local engineering firms, known as Construction Services Colleagues (CSC), generating around £70 million per year for the local economy.

NGN began working directly with small, local engineering firms in 2011 to deliver the bulk of its mains replacement work rather than relying on big, national contractors, which is the gas industry’s usual approach.

The scale of this model and the level of engagement with these local suppliers, is unique in the industry and NGN is revolutionising the way that the utility sector works with contractors.

The scheme, which sees around 600 people employed as Construction Services Colleagues across the network has not only changed the way NGN carries out its essential gas main replacement works, but it has also made a considerable impact on the firms working with them.

One of the engineering firms that NGN works with is Sunderland based, MA Utilities. Managing director of the firm, Simon Maughan, said: “We work really closely with NGN and manage everything that is involved in the gas mains replacement work from planning, to construction, to closing up and clearing the site when the job is complete.

“Since we started working with NGN in 2011, our workforce has doubled and we have benefitted from a great deal of support and training opportunities. Having such a positive relationship is definitely a two way street. The work with NGN has given us job security and helped us to grow which drives us to do the best job possible for them.”

Northern Gas Networks (NGN), is currently investing millions of pounds in to replacing ageing metal gas mains across its regions with new durable plastic pipes. Working directly with local engineering firms allows NGN to deliver a cost-effective mains replacement programme where customer satisfaction is just as important as the number of meters of pipe put in the ground.

Another engineering firm to work with NGN under its CSC model, is North Tyneside based, Andy Hughes Utility Services (AHUS).

Explaining the changes to his business since 2011, Andy Hughes of AHUS, said: “I first began working with NGN in 2006 but I was employed through an external contractor. I started out with just myself, one van and two employees but since working directly with NGN, I have been able to considerably grow my business. I now have around 80 employees, 25 vans and we’re always busy.

“We operate predominantly in the North Tyneside area with approximately 80% of our team working in the area that they live but we sometimes travel to Halifax and Yorkshire if needed. Working with NGN has been a great opportunity not only for us to grow but to keep it all within our local area and create more jobs here.”

Dean Shepherdson, Head of Construction Services at NGN, said: “Local firms, such as MA Utilities and AHUS, have a great understanding of the areas that they’re working in and they know our stakeholders really well. They work to our own high standards and are effectively an extension of NGN.  The model has resulted in us being able to improve efficiencies by 10% whilst dramatically improving customer service and site safety.

“These two companies are fantastic examples of small firms that have been able to grow, upskill its workforce and stimulate the local economy with employment opportunities through our relationship with them.”

NGN delivers gas to 2.7 million homes and businesses across the North of England and provides the region’s rapid response service for customers who smell gas at home or work.

The company is investing £90 million annually to replace around 530 km of ageing metal gas mains across the north of England with new durable plastic pipes every year until 2021.

For more information go to www.northerngasnetworks.co.uk