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Virgin Media Face 14 Charges in Carlisle Court for Safety Breaches

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018 (7:10 am) - Score 2,289

Cable TV and ultrafast broadband ISP Virgin Media UK (Liberty Global) seems to be in hot water again after the Carlisle Magistrates’ Court in Cumbria highlighted 14 alleged safety breaches (locations), which relate to the Project Lightning network expansion in residential areas.

The charges themselves link back to the 1991 New Road and Street Works Act, which among other things was design to protect the structure of the street and the apparatus in it, as well as to ensure safety (both of workers and residents etc.) and to minimise the inconvenience for people using a street (particularly those with a disability).

Some may recall an article we wrote last July 2017, which highlighted how Virgin Media’s network expansion in Carlisle had come under fire for its quality of work after 400 defects were logged in one year (here). The local authority also said that as a result of this they were having to inspect 90% (instead of the “usual” 10%) of related street works and instruct a lot of repairs.

At the time Rob Betton, an independent Councillor for Botcherby, said: “Some of my constituents have fallen over these uneven pavements. In some cases, paving slabs are being left sticking up by as much as two inches. In many cases, the work has been done in conservation areas.

All of this stems from the operator’s announcement in 2016, which confirmed a plan to extend their 350Mbps capable broadband and cable TV network to an additional 22,000 premises in the city (here). Allegedly the locally based contractors were actually doing quite a good job but the other third-party ones, which Virgin Media had hired from outside of town, seemed to be less reliable.

Fast forward to last week and a hearing in the Carlisle Magistrates’ Court has revealed that lawyers for Cumbria County Council are attempting to prosecute the operator due to the state of street works on a number of residential roads across Carlisle. The News and Star lists these locations as follows.

The 14 Locations / Charges (One Count for Each Area)

* Weardale Road, Caldewgate

* Monks Close, Caldewgate

* Dowbeck Road, off Wigton Road

* Beconsfield Street, Currock

* Thirlmere Street, Currock

* Uldale Road, Upperby

* Upperby Road, Upperby

* Embleton Road, Upperby

* Scalegate Road, Upperby

* Kirklands Road, Upperby

* Clementia Terrace, Currock

* Upperby Road, Upperby [a second charge]

* Lund Crescent, Upperby

* Dunmail Drive, Morton

The council claims that Virgin Media, which was being represented by barrister John Boumphrey, is responsible for the work of their contractors. Apparently the contractors are accused of failing to adequately guard and light parts of the street that were obstructed by plant or materials. On top of that it’s alleged that they also failed to ensure the appropriate traffic signs were correctly placed, maintained or operated.

The operator has yet to enter any pleas against the charges and the case is now due to go before a district judge on 2nd May 2018. We did contact Virgin Media about this issue but they have declined to comment, which is unsurprising given that the action is on-going and they’ve yet to enter any formal pleas.

At this point we usually say that building new fibre optic network infrastructure is a highly disruptive, as well as expensive, exercise. Similarly Virgin Media are by no means alone in causing the occasional problem for communities. In the end such disruption is typically a small price to pay for gaining access to an ultrafast broadband network and boosting local competition at infrastructure level.

However, the situation in Carlisle looks to be much more serious than we’ve seen elsewhere in the country, where most of the problems created by different broadband builders have tended to be fairly minor infractions or simple cases of temporary inconvenience.

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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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14 Responses
  1. Chris P says:

    Vermin Media deploying in “Botcherby”

    LoL

    1. Mike says:

      Rob Betton, an independent Councillor for Botcherby needs to look at the pavement at the bottom of his road (or rather registered address) if he is so concerned about people tripping over. Under the bridge there are broken paving slabs, Broken paving for the blind slabs and a metal railing just in the middle of the pavement for no real reason.

      As mentioned on a prior story it seems to be a certain council just wants a few new pavements for cheap.

  2. Joe says:

    This seems shortsighted. For the reasons Mark mentions problems happen. Councils acting in this way are likely to drive up costs and reduce coverage of F if they send out this message.

    1. chrisp says:

      @Joe,

      maybe you missed Marks final paragraph?

      “However, the situation in Carlisle looks to be much more serious than we’ve seen elsewhere in the country, where most of the problems created by different broadband builders have tended to be fairly minor infractions or simple cases of temporary inconvenience.”

      VM are not doing themselves or other infrastructure providers any favours due to the behaviour of their contractors. Its not the councils fault, and they are not nitpicking. I’m sure you’d be pretty miffed if VM dug uo your pavements and reinstated it with slabs sticking up 2 inches from each other.

    2. Oggy says:

      “Councils acting in this way are likely to drive up costs.”

      How dare councils want the work to be completed safely and to a decent standard, how dare they!

    3. Steve Jones says:

      So you favour bodged jobs which endanger the elderly and infirm? Do you know how serious a fall can be to somebody in their 80s?

      Not just that, but loading onto the council future costs for repairing the state of the streets.

      The pavements round where I used to live never did recover from the mess made by the cable companies back in the late 1980s.

    4. Ethel Prunehat says:

      It costs the council money to pursue VM through the courts. The court system costs money to operate. VM might have thought they could save some money by cutting corners but hopefully it will end up costing them more to cut corners than to do it properly first time round.
      It’s also unlikely that court action is Step 1 in this dispute so it’s presumably been rumbling on for a while.
      I would love fibre to my house, but not at the cost of public safety.

    5. TheManStan says:

      Courts for this kind of thing are a last resort… and for the council to go for VM would suggest that the contractor/s may have gone under (possibly casualties of the Carillion debacle). However, VM have final responsibility and accountability for the works done on their behalf.

    6. Joe says:

      I read all the article but doubt this wasn’t resolvable via proper reinstatment. As for the outrage above go down streets in most towns and you can find legal issues over slabs (angled up or down) potholes or other hazards but you won’t find the council in the dock.

    7. Steve Jones says:

      Councils do get sued for accidents caused by unsafe pavements. There are, needless to say, claims companies which specialise in it (like this one).

      https://www.councilclaims.co.uk/pavement-trip-compensation-claim/

      I suspect this one is rather more serious than the average which are, not doubt, dealt with without involving the courts. But a council which did not pursue serious breaches might, itself, but liable in law.

    8. A_Builder says:

      @Steve Jones is correct in that if the Council leaves VM’s mess to trip people up then the Council will pick up the bill. It has a statutory obligation to protect the ratepayers money. Council’s hate taking organisations to Court because of the costs.

      The only reason this will have been done is because VM have failed to comply with ‘notices to rectify’ and ‘notices to make safe’.

      There will be before and after photos of the state of the street so it will be pretty clear what the issues are. These are often taken by the pavement sweeping cars to try and get a handle on “I tipped on that paving slab” type claims. Which slab – the once that was fine until the week after you ‘fall’ sir?

      If there is a real and widespread mess then it can be very hard to get it properly resolved as often the groundworks contractors don’t have good systems for resolving loads of scattered defects.

  3. Steve says:

    Another case of ‘peanuts and monkeys’. All operators want the work done at very low rates and sadly the only people left to carry out the work are those that the other utilities don’t want.
    The Carrillion Telent contract with BT started much of this problem in the civils environment. Pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

  4. R Burnett says:

    I was an employee (Manager) for Virgin Media in London, I found the most Blatant Health and Safety Breeches I have ever seen (I was consultant for many UK ‘Blue Chip’ Companies). I raised concerns at the very highest level and my life made a living hell as “No budget available”. Thousands of employees/general public at risk of death. I have resigned.

  5. ruthgray says:

    I have been trying to contact v.m regarding dangerous exposed cable from side of house .Cable hanging like a skipping rope and held by a piece of stone in the middle.Disgusting that no one has attended to same.Also all call centres l do eventually get through to are in lndia and Phillipines .I do not think the staff understand the seriousness of this.lt is most frustrating nothing is being done .l keep being told l will receive a call .l never do. Very poor customer servic.ruth

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