The government’s Geospatial Commission plans to collate existing data on underground pipes and cables to create an Underground Assets Register.
Nearly £4m is being invested in London and Sunderland to test the feasibility of the project.
There is currently no comprehensive underground map of the UK’s service network.
Different organisations have their own maps showing where gas pipes and electricity cables are, but the lack of a combined map creates an increased risk of potentially lethal accidents.
Once up and running workers will be able to see underground pipes and cables on mobile phones or laptop computers before they start a dig.
It is estimated that the cost of disruption from accidental strikes on underground pipes and cables is £1.2bn a year to the UK’s economy.
David Henderson, the managing director of Ordnance Survey Great Britain, said: “The creation of an underground map of utility assets has long been an ambition of Ordnance Survey.
“And over the last year we have been working closely with Northumbrian Water and a consortia of utility companies and local authorities in the North East of England, to explore how accurate geospatial data can improve underground infrastructure maintenance and inform new-build development projects.
“The investment being made by the Geospatial Commission will ultimately enable the utility industry to more efficiently access, use and share data describing otherwise hidden infrastructure, thereby reducing operational costs, minimising disruption and accelerating completion of site works.”
Heidi Mottram, CEO of Northumbrian Water, said: “Working alongside local authorities, other utility services and partners has meant that we are off to a good start in mapping Sunderland’s underground. We are looking forward to working with government and others to showcase the powers of data sharing for public good.”