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Network Rail Breaks Broadband for Uxbridge and West Drayton

Friday, October 21st, 2016 (3:08 pm) - Score 2,358

Engineers working for Network Rail have damaged a mass of BTOpenreach’s cable ducts near Uxbridge (West London) because they “were not highlighted in the thorough surveys we carried out prior to the work.” As a result broadband and phone services in the area, including West Drayton, are suffering a major outage.

The incident occurred during the early hours of Wednesday morning (around 2am) and since then Openreach has had engineers on site to replace the ducting, but it’s a complicated job not least because the damage is extensive and occurred on a railway line.

A large number of ISPs have been affected and initially the problem was scheduled to be resolved yesterday, but sadly it’s still on-going.

A Spokesperson for Network Rail said:

“We are sorry that we have caused people problems with their phone and internet connections today. While work was taking place in the early hours of Wednesday morning we damaged cables which are used by a number of different communications providers.

The cables were not highlighted in the thorough surveys we carried out prior to the work. We are working to help BT’s Openreach division to get connections back up and running as soon as possible.”

A Spokesperson for Openreach added:

“We’re really sorry but we’ve got a problem at the moment in the West Drayton area, which means some of our customers will be having trouble getting online. We’re trying to fix the problem as quickly as we can.”

Apparently the damage itself occurred during electrification work on the local Elizabeth Line and the bad news is that the work may continue over the weekend. A statement posted on Sky Broadband’s support feed said, “Due to the safety risks and the complexity involved, repair work will carry on over the weekend. We’re sorry for the continued inconvenience caused by this outage.”

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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13 Responses
  1. Steve Jones says:

    “The cables were not highlighted in the thorough surveys we carried out prior to the work.”

    So does that mean that Openreach didn’t highlight the existence of these ducts, or does it mean their “thorough survey” wasn’t all that thorough?

    1. Optimist says:

      This problem came to light soon after Network Rail started electrifying the London to South Wales main line. They found that the “High Output” system which drilled holes, put up masts etc. on the move often cut the signalling cables. The line had been rsignalled some years ago when it was assumed that diesel operation would continue, so they saved money by not bothering to record where the cables were buried. Big mistake. That’s why the project is running years late.

  2. captain.cretin says:

    My experience of sub’ing for a utility company (or two), is that the cables/ducts/pipes are rarely within 50ft of where the plans say they are, unless there is a choke point – such as a bridge crossing point.

    1. Steve Jones says:

      I’m not surprised, especially as those ducts were often laid a long time ago. However, even if they were only 5 feet out it could be a major problem in a crowded urban area like West Drayton, so would have assumed that they didn’t rely on the absolute accuracy of maps and had some form of surveying instruments that could detect utilities. From what I read, this was a piling operation, and that’s pretty violent activity which would wreck anything it encountered. I imagine it’s a right mess.

      I don’t know exactly where this was in West Drayton, but the line is on a bit of an embankment in the region of the station.

  3. TheFacts says:

    No cable detectors used?

  4. P Wick says:

    Network Rail caused this and refuse to facilitate the repairs.

    There are potentially 10,000 to 25,000 affected lines and thus a lot more affected individuals.

    Network Rail should STOP rail services on the line to allow BT to re-instate their services.

    Inconveniencing a few thousand passengers for a few hours will be a lot less than inconveniencing ten of thousands of individuals for a week or more – 200 hours.

    1. Steve Jones says:

      The mainline has a scheduled closure to traffic every from around 1:00AM to about 6:00AM on Sunday morning. It was extended by a couple of hours very close to where I lived when a road bridge was being replaced (with a replacement bus service). However, would a few hours be enough time? If that duct is deep and, especially if there were large numbers of copper pairs affected, that’s one very big job in difficult conditions.

      Closing the mainline during the weekday would be enormously disruptive. What Network Rail often do in off-peak periods for maintenance work is to go down to two track working, but even very late in the evening that causes massive problems.

      Somebody is going to get a big bill for this but, sadly, not much of that money will go to the people without service for what looks like a long time.

    2. Optimist says:

      So much for the internet being designed to route round problems!

    3. Ignition says:

      Routing around problems kinda needs there to be multiple routes available.

  5. Steve Jones says:

    @Optimist

    I think the Internet would view West Drayton as the problem to be routed around. I agree, knowing the place.

  6. Hope says:

    Apparently it would be back to normal by 27/10/2016

  7. Kay Ripley says:

    Not a change Oct 31st & still not working, it is appalling!!!!!!!!!!!! We now have a date of end of day 2nd November, does BT not think of their customers, perhaps I will be as slow as them paying my broadband bill. It would be nice to think we will get compensation for lost income.

  8. Professional NOT says:

    Current planned finish date is 2nd November ? That will be 2 weeks ! Complete rubbish. Would BT Openreach accept that kind of service ? NO ! What about business’s, the elderly, disabled, etc ? Everybody affected should at least get a refund of the line rental, Broadband charges, etc without having to claim (see https://www.openreach.co.uk/orpg/home/products/serviceproducts/proactiveslgs/proactiveslgs.do). Unfortunately Moneysavingexpert.com states “Currently users have to lodge a formal complaint with their provider, then escalate that complaint to the Ombudsman after eight weeks if they’re not happy with the response – with no guarantee they’ll get any compensation”. I urge everybody to lodge a formal complaint and escalate if they get no compensation.

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