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Network Rail Hampers Gigaclear’s FTTP Broadband in Berkshire

Thursday, September 12th, 2019 (10:31 am) - Score 2,261
gigaclear soil dig ftth fttp

Fibre optic ISP Gigaclear UK, which is working to rollout a new 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband network in rural Berkshire, appears to have suffered another local setback after Network Rail refused permission to run optical cable over one of their bridges near Binfield.

The situation was first spotted by the BBC yesterday (credits Barnaby), although we think their reference to it impacting “ten thousand people” might potentially be confusing the above issue with last year’s much more significant rollout delays; those were due to wider issues with resources, management and planning (here).

Gigaclear has a couple of contracts under the state aid supported Superfast Berkshire project and both were last year hit by delays of between 3-20 months. We should point out that one of Openreach’s (BT) contracts under this scheme was, at the same time, also hit by a 12 month delay.

In this latest case Network Rail confirmed the situation and said they were “investigating alternative arrangements,” while a spokesperson for Gigaclear acknowledged that “there are inevitably factors which are beyond our control.

No clear reason for the refusal has been stated in the report, although we know from similar examples in the past that running optical fibre cable over rural bridges that belong to Network Rail can be both expensive, disruptive to commuters and may also attract a lot of red tape (health and safety etc.).

Naturally there are alternatives, although it would depend upon the area and we’re not exactly sure which bridge is affected. In some cases you just have to find another crossing, while in other situations it may be possible to use a directional drill in order to go under the rival and elsewhere we’ve seen fibre being carried across rivers (e.g. pole to pole) but that isn’t always viable.

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Mark Jackson
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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11 Responses
  1. Avatar AnotherTim

    Well at least the properties delayed have had a letter. In my area we have had delays of 2 years or so and no notification or progress updates.

  2. Avatar chris conder

    Network rail could contribute significantly to rural fibre, but they just won’t co-operatate at all. We tried for two years and our MPs got involved, the full monty, but they wouldn’t let us use their bridge. It is only a little branch line with very few trains, and the whole job would only have taken 20 minutes. Instead we had to save up and do a directional dig under a river. The big society and joined up thinking and helping the country thrive plans seem to have gone out of the window. The problem seems to be paperwork. Nobody has the authority to think outside the box and act for the benefit of all.

    This is why projects get delayed. But there is always a plan B and another route can be found. It does waste time though. Good luck Gigaclear.

    • Avatar Peter

      No the problem as ever when using someone else’s infrastructure is always the same.
      Its all fine until the infrastructure needs replacing.
      Then when Network Rail want to rebuild the bridge and GC need to remove the fibre a major problem ensues.
      I’ve seen the same with shared rural driveways. Everyone is happy until 20 years later when new owners have moved in and a full scale row develops over who is maintaining the driveway to what standard and of course who is paying.
      I’d be the same as N.Rail if a company wanted to string a cable along my roof eaves.

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      I agree. Is this really Network Rail totally refusing permission or that Gigaclear are not willing to sign up to their T&Cs including liabilities.

    • Avatar fastman

      is only a little branch line with very few trains, and the whole job would only have taken 20 minutes.

      I assume your talking about the Settle – Carlisle Railway line

      is only a little branch line with very few trains – really ?

      only 20 minutes – really ?

  3. Avatar Optical

    Network Rail has replaced dozen of old bridges with precast concrete ones,it would have been a simple job to lay ducting over the deck before the subase & tarmac is laid on it.
    But,NetworkRail just won’t co-operatate,they just bury their heads in the sand with the idea.

    • Avatar Ivor

      Network Rail aren’t strangers to having people put cables alongside their tracks. Around here, certain telcos’ network maps have routes that look suspiciously like the railway mainline. They also run their own fibre for their own needs.

      So they probably know rather a lot about the challenges and issues – more than Gigaclear do. Probably not a good idea to throw blame around until the bigger picture emerges.

  4. Avatar Barry Walsh

    I have the exact same problem getting decent broadband, I live 20 yards from a train line, on my side of the line you can’t get any decent broadband providers to incur the expense of traversing the train line, its an absolute joke, cut off because of train tracks

  5. Avatar FibreBubble

    Article should read ‘Gigaclear’s poor planning hampers FTTP broadband in Berkshire’

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