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Carlisle Court Fines Virgin Media UK £385K for Unsafe Street Work

Thursday, May 17th, 2018 (7:58 am) - Score 1,055
virgin media engineer street works

A couple of months ago we reported that Virgin Media was facing 14 alleged safety breaches in the Carlisle Magistrates’ Court, which related to the expansion of their cable broadband and TV network in Cumbria. This week the ISP admitted to seven offences and was fined £385,000.

We first covered the problems that Virgin Media’s civil engineering teams had created around Carlise in July 2017 (here). At the time the local authority claimed that their quality of work had left much to be desired after 400 defects were logged in a single year. As a result the council was having to inspect 90% (instead of the “usual” 10%) of related street works, while also instructing a lot of repairs.

Crucially some of the problems centred around the unsafe condition that certain locations had been left in as part of the street works, such as those where holes had been exposed or poorly protected in the pavement, a lack of safe alternative walkways for pedestrians or paving slabs being left to stick up by as much as 2 inches. A number of residents also complained about suffering accidents as a result of the work.

As such it came as little surprise when, during March 2018, Virgin were hauled before the courts and accused of breaching the 1991 New Road and Street Works Act in 14 locations (here). The 1991 act is designed to protect the structure of the street and the apparatus in it, as well as to ensure safety (workers and residents) and to minimise the inconvenience for people using a street (particularly those with a disability).

This week Virgin admitted to 7 of the 14 offences relating to poorly guarded or signposted works in Scalegate Road, Beaconsfield Street, Thirlmere Street, Uldale Road, Kirklands Road and two sites in Upperby Road (here). This has resulted in them being hit with one of the biggest ever fines for a utilities deployment of new UK broadband infrastructure (£385,000).

A Spokesperson for Virgin Media said:

“We apologise to Cumbria County Council and the local residents affected by the works carried out by contract partners on behalf of Virgin Media.

While we continue to expand our fibre broadband network to more homes across the country we aim to minimise any disruption caused.

In this case we fell short of the high standards we set ourselves and those partners who work with us.”

On top of the fine Virgin will also have to pay prosecution costs of £3,500 and a £170 victim surcharge. We note that some people pointed the finger of blame for all this at the operator’s third-party contractors from outside town, while the local ones were allegedly said to be doing a better job. A spokesman for the council said: “We are pleased with the outcome of this case. Utilities working on the public highway must ensure they work in a safe manner.”

The situation has obviously caused some problems for the operator’s plan to extend their 350Mbps capable broadband and cable TV network to an additional 22,000 premises in the city (here), although they appear to have already completed most or all of this deployment.

Generally councils, which are also at risk of legal action from residents when unsafe conditions arise, will only go to court as a last resort. Usually we’d say that building new fibre optic infrastructure is inherently very disruptive and in the end such disruption is a small price to pay for gaining access to an ultrafast broadband network. But in this case the situation appears to have been much more serious than we’ve seen elsewhere.

Meanwhile Virgin Media recently reported (here) that their £3bn Project Lightning network expansion, which reflects a mix of their EuroDOCSIS based Hybrid Fibre Coax and “full fibreFTTP infrastructure, had completed about 1.2 million premises of their 4 million target (expected to cover 60% of the UK at completion). Unfortunately progress is still running a fair bit behind their earlier expectations.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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6 Responses
  1. Mike

    Customers will be the ones that pay it.

  2. AndyC

    “although they appear to have already completed most or all of this deployment.”

    I hope not, they haven’t come anywhere near our area of the city yet and the people in the shop are adamant the plan is to cable every property within the city limits.

  3. Alan

    Congrats to the council, im sure the constituents will be happy that no organisation in their right mind will touch the area now and im sure despite the fine for this oh so dangerous work none of it will be corrected by the council.

    • Steve Jones

      If you cared a jot for the safety of the elderly and disabled you would not be so flippant about leaving pavements in dangerous conditions. Falls can be extremely serious for the elderly – a considerable proportion never recover from broken hips.

    • Alan

      “If you cared a jot for the safety of the elderly and disabled you would not be so flippant about leaving pavements in dangerous conditions. Falls can be extremely serious for the elderly – a considerable proportion never recover from broken hips.”

      I am not being flippant about the situation poor pavements can and do cause injury. If however you have any knowledge of the area you would know the pavements in many of the streets mentioned have never been in tip top condition.

      Beaconsfield Street actually in parts still has uneven cobblestones, im sure the elderly love crossing those. Never mind the mishmash of pavements slabs, concrete and tarmac which covers most on the list.

      Thirlmere Street on google maps actually has images of when the VM work was taking place and from what i can see the bits that required tarmacing where done were neat and strait (certainly to a FAR higher standard than ive seen some street work done) and the bits that were in process and where needed pavement slabs that were removed have been removed neatly and in whole rather than just being ripped up with machinery.

      Of course all that being said any provider including Virgin should ensure work is done to a satisfactory standard.

      Its just a bit rich of a council to whinge about the pavements in the area when they have been in a poor condition for years some with cracked and broken paving slabs dating back to the 1980s (I actually worked in Carlise back then so know exactly what was there and still is there).

      If the council were actually fixing pavements both VM and non VM related id support them 100%, but THIS particular council do not from what i can see give a rats backside about pavements in the area……. I hate to be sceptical but clearly it was a quick way to make some fast cash for them.

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