One reason for the choice was the ability of the vehicles — all 350 medium-wheelbase high roof vans — to accommodate under-floor generators and compressors needed primarily for road drilling. Powered by 140hp 2.4-litre diesels and manned by two engineers, the rear-wheel drive Transits are also kitted out with load area racking and workbenches.

Ford has equipped the newcomers with heavy-duty batteries, vinyl-trimmed seats, alarms approved by Thatcham, shorthand for the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre, and has installed limiters to restrict top speed to 70mph.

The Transit order was placed by United Utilities Operations, which provides NGN with asset management and associated services. With a 23,000-mile network of gas pipes, NGN distributes gas to around 2.5m homes and businesses across Yorkshire, the North East and northern Cumbria.

Expected to cover 20,000 miles apiece on average annually, the vans were purchased outright and are set to remain in service for around four years.