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United Utilities Maintenance Service Provider Framework (2022)

One of the only frameworks of its kind in England providing a dedicated maintenance project delivery service across the North West

United Utilities operational area - Courtesy of United Utilities

As the UK’s largest listed water company, United Utilities aspires to ensure resilience of its network to the effects of climate change, improving the quality of wastewater effluent and providing a reliable and wholesome drinking water supply to its customers. To help drive greater efficiency and innovation in its network, United Utilities appointed Costain as sole Maintenance Service Provider (MSP) for a five-year period in 2019, to provide a new outsourced maintenance and project delivery service to internal customers (end-users). From the outset, Costain’s objective was to provide efficiency, innovation, long-term resilience and excellent customer service, through the overall management and execution of the larger-scale on-site asset maintenance activities throughout the north-west at 96 water treatment sites, 575 wastewater treatment sites, pumping stations and service reservoirs which serve over six million people.


The MSP Framework team consists of over 120 directly employed staff and a network of 165 suppliers to provide effective service delivery for United Utilities’ assets across water, wastewater, networks and bio-resources and energy. The framework consists of two separate delivery contracts:

  1. Core contract: This includes maintenance Core Services of very high-volume, short-duration activities through to core projects which, whilst also of high volume, are of a greater scale and complexity, delivered as projects.
  2. Non-core contract: This includes the delivery of larger capital projects.

Further details of how each workstream is managed are included in this case study alongside several project examples.

The use of data insights and digital tools are at the heart of the framework objective to provide leading edge service performance. This includes the capture and analysis of extensive volumes of project data to enable insights across Safety, Health and Environmental (SHE), operational efficiency, performance, quality, time and cost.

Delivering core services

Costain, in delivering the MSP Framework, manages and delivers a reactive maintenance service, known as Core Services, to over 900 United Utilities sites, maintaining essential supply of clean water and removal of wastewater in the north-west, from Crewe to Carlisle. This includes the provision of maintenance services including but not limited to repair, replacement and refurbishment of equipment. This high-volume reactive service is delivered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and as part of a centralised service, Costain manages core maintenance operations including data capture at source (from field teams), scheduling maintenance activities and recording asset information.

Clough Bottom Reservoir: (left and top right) wavewall construction and (botton right) spillway temporary works access - Courtesy of Costain

Clough Bottom Reservoir: (left and top right) wavewall construction and (botton right) spillway temporary works access – Courtesy of Costain

The Core Team consists of dedicated internal MSP engineers and schedulers to receive and dispatch orders across the North (Lancashire and Cumbria) and South teams (Manchester, Merseyside, Cheshire). United Utilities’ operational or field teams identify a need and raise orders to a central team at Costain who triage and manage requests on Dynamics 365, a Customer Relationship Management system. The team operates a call centre to respond to any emergency requests. Since being awarded the MSP contract in 2019, Costain has transformed the way the core maintenance activities are managed, implementing systems and processes that were reactive to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MSP promotes collaboration between Costain and United Utilities’ stakeholders, integrated control centre (ICC), area production teams, Costain project engineering teams and the supply chain to enable work to be delivered in the most efficient way.

The types of jobs undertaken by the Core Services range from simple first-time fixes that require solo visits from engineers to larger jobs that require multi-disciplinary team support. The work can include examples such as pump replacement and leak investigation that requires on-site works for up to two weeks.

Through increased automation of data processing and trend analysis utilising Power Bi applications to interface with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, Costain have increased visibility of risk to optimise the asset maintenance strategy. The MSP Core Services has reduced the number of reactive activities from 50% to 30% since the commencement of the contract.

To date the Core Services team has responded to over 13,000 maintenance work orders. This centralised approach has optimised communication between United Utilities teams and boosted customer satisfaction from 18 to 75% on average between 2019 and 2021.

The delivery of Core Services undertaken to date and previously by the MSP Framework has progressed through a planned transition across 2021/2022, with United Utilities delivering this activity internally through the maintenance sourcing team. This allows the United Utilities/Costain MSP partnership to focus on project delivery (core and non-core) where the framework has demonstrated it can add most value.

Costain MSP and United Utilities colleagues have worked closely throughout the transition period to ensure a seamless transition which will run to the end of 2022, ensuring a consistent high standard of service is maintained to the operational customer.

Audlem WwTW current view of site - Courtesy of Costain

Audlem WwTW current view of site – Courtesy of Costain

Core Projects

Core Projects are larger maintenance activities which require solution development, design, procurement and implementation. Operating across a high-volume portfolio of projects generated across the MSP, the project engineering team will work closely with the operational customer or field engineer to understand the need(s) and develop a suitable solution which can be progressed through procurement and subsequent implementation.

The team adopts the use of a structured triage, governance and a dedicated project management database system to ensure effective control and delivery of requirements.

The MSP core delivery model utilises a range of functional support teams to ensure activities are delivered to the highest standard of Safety, Health, Environmental Protection and Quality (SHEQ). These functional teams include the MSP SHE team, site supervisory team, temporary works coordinators, lifting appointed persons and supervisors, engineering, design management and commercial. Each team providing the necessary input and support to the project engineering team to deliver the high volume of projects across the vast geographical region.

The structured process adopted across each project embeds the opportunity to drive solution efficiency, innovation and risk management for each scheme, providing the operational customer with the best possible solution to their need(s).

Core Projects are supported by a 160-strong supply chain, providing the necessary diverse and wide-ranging capability to service the variety of projects. Since the start of 2022 the MSP have developed solutions to 132 Core Projects.

(left) Gurney Environmental mixer prior to the helicopter lift and (right) Helicopter lifting the mixer into place at Wayoh Impounding Reservoir - Courtesy of Costain

(left) Gurney Environmental mixer prior to the helicopter lift and (right) Helicopter lifting the mixer into place at Wayoh Impounding Reservoir – Courtesy of Costain

Core Project: Wayoh Impounding Reservoir Mixer

In 2021, United Utilities instructed Costain to develop a solution to enable installation of a new mixer system within Wayoh Impounding Reservoir, Lancashire, with the aim of mixing the raw water and in turn, mitigating future problems for water quality and treatment.

The reservoir has several constraints including limited access for the safe installation of cranes and other construction equipment. It is also a popular location for runners and other recreational purposes.

Costain worked with Gurney Environmental to devise a solution which involved lifting the mixer into place via helicopter, with divers completing the work underwater. This was successfully undertaken in July 2022 with minimal disturbances to local residents and those using the surrounding area for recreational purposes.

Bio-resources and energy delivery

The MSP team includes a dedicated bio-resources and energy team to specifically engage and meet the needs of the United Utilities’ bio-resources team and asset base.

The MSP bio-resources and energy team are strategically aligned with United Utilities’ bio-resource organisation allowing the team to deliver true collaboration and provide better visibility and triage of future projects in both the Core and Non-Core workstreams and explore opportunities for early optioneering and constructability and develop the most optimum and cost-effective solutions.

The MSP bio-resources and energy team work collaboratively with United Utilities providing a range of early involvement activities and supporting the client engineering teams, with activities such as optioneering studies and concept and definition phase design. The bio-resources and energy team naturally embed innovation in their approach and explore innovative solutions and new technologies for consideration in meeting the needs of a variety of projects.

Replacement gas holders - Courtesy of Costain

Replacement gas holders – Courtesy of Costain

As an example of the type of projects undertaken by the bio-resources and energy team, in 2022, the MSP completed an upgrade to existing gas holders at Manchester Bio-resource Centre (MBC) at Davyhulme WwTW in Greater Manchester, which included the installation of two gas holders, replacing the existing equipment installed in 2011. The MSP acted as principal contractor and principal designer, working alongside Utile Engineering and Water Engineering Services Ltd to provide the design, specification, manufacture, supply, installation, testing and commissioning of the two new gas holder membranes and associated works in accordance with United Utilities standards and specifications.

Non-Core projects

The Non-Core delivery route follows a more conventional capital delivery model, within which United Utilities formally develops projects with Costain.

The Non-Core category of work requires Costain to maintain or support assets of greater scope, value, and complexity. This can include projects up to and beyond the value of £4m lasting up to 18 months.

As part of Costain’s integrated offering, a dedicated in-house design team is available to provide additional consultancy services at the early stages of the design process through to delivery of both core supported and non-core projects. Early involvement and collaboration between the client, MSP team, and Costain’s design services provides added value to achieve operational and environmental savings.

Non-Core Project: Clough Bottom Impounding Reservoir

The project included the design and construction of remedial improvements to the impounding reservoir site including:

  • Construction of a new wavewall structure.
  • Lining of the existing spillway including along with construction of a portal opening across the scour entrance to the spillway.
  • Removal of the existing gauging weir and replace with newly constructed flow monitoring and redesign, rebuild and relocate the lower footbridge arrangements.

The works were undertaken in a scenic location with constrained access to the workface. Enabling works included temporary works to facilitate plant access routes along with crane and concrete pump platforms. The enabling and investigation works were carried out in conjunction with United Utilities, Water Engineering Services Ltd and JVT Construction.

New spillway lining under construction - Courtesy of Costain

New spillway lining under construction – Courtesy of Costain

Non-Core Project: Audlem WwTW

The existing Audlem WwTW in Cheshire required a comprehensive upgrade of process facilities to deliver the Environment Agency, Water Industry National Environmental Programme outputs and future population growth based on a 2035 design horizon. The existing site has several constraints including access and topography across the site. This requires intermediate pumps to convey flows from one asset to the next in the process.

A design solution was achieved by combining the FFT pumping station, storage and recirculation to eliminate intermediate pumping stations between the site processes, presentation of rag to the screens in low flow and pump curve efficiencies.

Work has begun on site and will achieve several benefits including reduced operational consumptions of the two recirculation pumps and reduced operational carbon using a more efficient selection of inlet pumping station pumps.

Creating a strong legacy

Since 2019, Costain and United Utilities have worked collaboratively to drive and continually improve the delivery of the framework through demanding and challenging periods, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking forward to the future, United Utilities, Costain and the MSP Framework is passionately supporting the journey to Net-Zero, pursuing environmentally enhancing solutions and carbon efficiencies through solution innovation and delivery.

The editor and publishers would like to thank Richard Carney, MSP Framework Director, and James Glenn, Project Manager, both with Costain, for providing the above article for publication.