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Keeping the water flowing in NW England.

The only framework of its kind in the water industry dedicated to active asset maintenance, delivering projects to improve quality, resilience, and service for millions of customers across the North West.

  • Service 1

United Utilities

  • Service 1

Consultancy and advisory

  • Service 1

2019 to date

Key Benefits

Over £18m saved

through early engagement and the use of data insights and digital tools to capture and analyse extensive volumes of project data across Safety, Health and Environmental (SHE), operational efficiency, performance, quality, time and cost.

Customer satisfaction scores

have improved from 18% to 83% on average between 2019 and 2022

£110k saving

since 2020 achieved due to a reduction in the number of reactive activities from 50% to 19%

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).

The maintenance service provider framework consists of two separate delivery contracts, core and non core. Core contracts include the maintenance 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. The non-core contract element covers the delivery of larger capital projects.

The MSP service:

  • Delivers the overall management and execution of the larger-scale on-site asset maintenance activities at 96 water treatment sites, 575 wastewater treatment sites, pumping stations and service reservoirs which serve over six million people.
  • Provides a reactive maintenance service to over 900 United Utilities sites, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  • Consists of over 150 dedicated professionals across United Utilities and Costain supported by a 160 strong supply chain.


Clough Bottom Reservoir wavewall construction

Core contract

The core team consists of dedicated 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 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.

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 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.

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.

Clough Bottom Reservoir wavewall construction

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 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.

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.

Clough Bottom Reservoir spillway temporary works access

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 provides 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.

Contact and social


Gerard Shore, Sector Director
0161 910 3444
[email protected]