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Delay Fears for Digital Scotland’s Broadband Rollout After Cable Ship Fail

Thursday, September 18th, 2014 (4:46 pm) - Score 1,065

Efforts to deploy 20 new submarine fibre optic cables around the western side of Scotland’s Highlands and Islands region (here) have suffered a setback after the French cable-laying ship Rene Descartes (Orange Marine) lost an 8 tonne submersible plough worth £3.6m.

The work forms part of Digital Scotland’s wider project with BT and had been going according to plan until Sunday, when the plough got caught while digging a trench for the new cable between Harris and Uist. Unfortunately STV reports that a towline, which was securing the plough and should have been able to cope with loads of around 10 tonnes, broke during the incident (STV).

A BT Spokesperson said:

The plough became stuck in very soft seabed sediment while the cable-layer was working on the inter-island Harris to Uist cable and during attempts to recover it the tow wire broke.

We are waiting for a formal plan from Orange Marine as to what is going to be done to recover it. The crew have marked the spot with a buoy and the master of the Rene Descartes has informed Marine Scotland, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Northern Lighthouse Board and Stornoway Coastguard, giving them the location details.

The subsea work has continued, with the cable being laid out on the seabed and buried by one of the remotely operated underwater vehicles.”

At this stage it is not known whether the plough can be recovered, although progress is likely to be slowed until the situation can be resolved. On top of that local fishermen are apparently being disrupted by the work, which could impact their livelihoods further if the problem cannot be resolved quickly.

The £409.8m Digital Scotland programme aims to ensure that 85% of Scottish homes and businesses can access BT’s “high-speed fibre broadband” (FTTC/P) network by the end of 2015 and this will rise to around 95% by the end of 2017. By contrast the Highland and Islands (HIE) region alone anticipates that it will only reach 84% by 2016 and plans to consume £126.4m of the overall funding (£19.4m from BT).

However it’s possible that future funding allocations for the programme may be affected if Scotland votes in favour of independence during today’s referendum.

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1 Response
  1. Avatar adslmax says:

    Not surprise. Another failure for Scotland hope!

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