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Code of Practice to Boost Fibre Broadband Street Works in Scotland

Monday, June 3rd, 2019 (8:40 am) - Score 1,198
virgin media street works meeting scotland

The Scottish Government has officially implemented a new Code of Practice in Scotland, which appears to create a uniform technical standard for “narrow trenching” method of civil engineering (i.e. trenches less than 300mm in width) that could help to speed up the rollout of fibre broadband ISP networks across the country.

The new Code of Practice makes changes to Section 130 of the New Road & Street Works Act 1991 and could, in theory, encourage greater use of the technique by broadband network builders, as well as better safeguards across Scotland’s 33 road authorities.

We should point out that narrow trenching is already widely used for street works, not least because it’s faster, less disruptive and cheaper to dig / backfill a tiny trench than to carve up a much bigger area. However different contractors have had a tendency to adopt different approaches, which isn’t helped by the fact that the original Act didn’t cover this approach in much detail (i.e. making it hard to judge safety, as well as to assess related work and recommend improvements).

In addition, the similar methods of “Slot cutting” and “Micro trenching” were entirely precluded by the old code. These terms have seen an increase in use in the rest of the UK without an agreed definition. This has led to the them being used as both an alternate term for narrow trenching and as separate excavation techniques, which lie outside of the Specification for the Reinstatement of Openings in Roads 2015 (SROR) code.

Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Connectivity Minister, said:

“The Scottish Government has listened to the views of companies who tell us that narrow trenching can help companies deliver fibre broadband faster and with less disruption to communities.

We understand that utility companies operate in a competitive market. They are therefore constantly looking for ways to improve their efficiency and to reduce their costs in order to keep ahead of their competition. This has led to innovation in how infrastructure, such as broadband, is deployed.

We have updated the code to enable narrow trenching to take place consistently, and in a manner which protects our pavements and road network, and this has the added benefit that will result in the faster deployment of broadband across Scotland and a reduction in the disruption communities face during the roll out itself.”

Julie Agnew, Regional Director for Scotland at Virgin Media, said:

“As Virgin Media continues to invest in bringing ultrafast broadband to more areas of Scotland, this new code gives much needed clarity for networks to be built in a fast, flexible and efficient way with minimal disruption. We thank the Scottish Government for working with us and creating an environment that encourages and supports broadband builders like Virgin Media.”

The picture accompanying this article depicts Paul Wheelhouse visiting a Virgin Media dig somewhere in Scotland, where he saw a new broadband installation taking place and discussed the new code with the installation team. In reality we’re not sure how much of a tangible impact this revised code will actually have on deployment pace but it’s definitely an overdue and most welcome change.

NOTE: Under the code Narrow Trenches are defined as all trenches of surface width between 100mm – 300mm (75mm – 300mm with authority approval), with a surface area greater than 2 square meters. Slot cutting trench widths of less than 75mm are still not permitted.

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