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Frustration in Swindon UK as CityFibre Keep Blocking Driveways

Monday, March 14th, 2022 (3:32 pm) - Score 3,216
cityfibre fence sign photo

CityFibre’s £40m investment to deploy a new 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband ISP network across the Wiltshire town of Swindon, which began in late 2020 (here), has in recent weeks generated a few complaints after contractors blocked some residents inside their homes – often without prior notice.

Broadband users in parts of the Stratton, Pinehurst and Moredon areas recently became some of the first in Swindon to gain access to the new network, which is being delivered by civil engineering firm Volker Smart Technologies and is currently due to be “substantially completed” by 2024.

NOTE: Cityfibre is supported by various ISPs, such as Vodafone (Gigafast Broadband), TalkTalk (Future Fibre), Zen Internet, Giganet, Fibrehop and others, but they aren’t all live or available in every location.. yet.

The rollout forms part of the operator’s wider £4bn project, which has already covered 1 million UK premises with FTTP and aims to have 8 million “substantially completed” – across 285 cities, towns and villages (c.30% of the UK) – by the end of 2025 (here). This will also cover a total of around 800,000 businesses, 400,000 public sector sites and 250,000 5G access points.

All of this is good news, unless you’re one of a number of angry locals in Swindon who has had their house and driveway blocked by the digging of a trench, which has been documented by the Swindon Advertiser here and here (see for pictures as our picture is from a different area). As a result, anybody who wants to get into or out of their house often has to interrupt the work and then wait awhile for everything to be moved and opened up.

The articles both accuse CityFibre’s contractors of declining to identify who they worked for (i.e. no emblems, no notices and no corporate identity on their vans), while also using questionable health and safety measures (e.g. school kids walking onto the road to avoid the works) and of having failed to notify residents about it all beforehand.

The council reportedly states that the contractor’s permit to work is only authorised if they give locals 7 working days’ notice of the start date etc.

Neil Madle, CityFibre’s City Manager for Swindon, said:

“We’re sorry to learn about this issue as we always endeavour to minimise disruption and complete all works as quickly as possible…

We can assure residents that we do everything in our power to inform the community well ahead of work starting, which includes direct mail, press and speaking directly to individuals.

We are grateful for the continued support we’ve received from the local community and ask that they continue to bear with us while we work to future-proof Swindon’s digital infrastructure.”

In most cases, it’s not so much an issue of the work itself being disruptive, but rather that the residents weren’t given prior notice and so couldn’t move their cars or make alternative arrangements ahead of time. The fact that this has happened on several occasions suggests that CityFibre’s attempts to notify residents have not always been effective. In fairness, it can be easy to miss such leaflets, as most of us are now hardwired to automatically bin anything that looks even remotely spammy.

Deploying new infrastructure will inevitably create periods of disruption for residents in the same area, which is often true no matter who is doing the noisy civil engineering side of things. Over the years we’ve seen similar gripes being levelled against most of the main operators, and some smaller players too.

Such work will often end up attracting complaints, some of which are difficult to avoid (e.g. blocked driveways and noise), although in other cases the contractors may be failing to follow good practice. However, in the long run, the ability to access affordable gigabit broadband speeds should make all of this disruption worthwhile and may even boost the value of local housing, as well as the economy.

Nevertheless, operators do still have a clear responsibility to conduct the work properly and, for the most part, they do take action when problems are identified.

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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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15 Responses
  1. Mike says:

    They could put a sales leaflet through the door with a notification about this on it 7 days prior…

  2. Gary H says:

    Always good to see a build in progress, but really no excuse for starting to dig trenches or otherwise block access without notification. If it was an emergency utilities repair then that would be a little different.

    As for contractors attitudes, well that’s for Cityfibre to address with management, I’d be pretty annoyed with a contractor that was working for me who made a poor impression on my potential customers.

    Of course there are always ‘exceptional’ people who just like to complain

  3. Jason says:

    Cityfibre is really using a lot of weird contractors… Also can’t really understand their build plans… It appears as if they sometimes add tubes/conduit in streets or create trenches and then just leave them dark for a super long period for no reason… And the address checker tool on their website is a mess as well

  4. Jason says:

    there is a reason why they are nick named Shity Fibre

    1. CarlT says:

      Puerile people see the rhyme and can’t help themselves?

  5. Anthony Goodman says:

    They are only infront of your house for maybe a day or two at most. And you just need to use some common-sense as you can see them coming and what they are doing outside other houses down your street to know to maybe park around the corner for a few days till their done. This is what I and my neighbours did. Its not rocket science.

    1. NeilM says:

      I normally find that asking them when they reckon they will get to a house helps.

      They don’t want the agro either. Though if I was trenching all day in all weathers, I wouldn’t always be the best of moods.

      Got to love the NRSWA. It was the bane of my early software development life.

  6. City Fibre are a total joke says:

    CityFibre example of ‘work’ that never gets completed (started YEARS ago)

    GLASGOW G13 Areas = A howling mess in the area and still ZERO customers connected.

    Knightswood area was dug up YEARS ago by CF and still NO serviceable addresses.

    A company clearly run by clowns.

    1. Campbell says:

      They have just dug up G14 end of Jordanhill and exactly the same issues. Even starting digging before the 8am permitted start time.

      Registered a complaint and never heard anything back!

    2. TBC says:

      Most likely that the core route has gone through your area 1st.

      This doesn’t mean that your area will be built and read.

      Cityfibre don’t use openreach for any of there main core cables and have to create there own route around entire cities and will dig through a area to come back to it at a later date.

    3. CarlT says:

      Unsure about Scotland but in England Monday-Saturday the usual acceptable start time is 7:30.

    4. Got Virgin not Cityfibre. says:

      The original G13 install was a dark fibre for the council with no residential connections. Recent work is for the residential install.

      Cityfibre have missed several locations in G13 due to the footpaths being owned by the Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) and are not publicly adopted. Cityfibre got permission to do the Lincoln Av flats from the GHA but it didn’t dawn on either to think about the other areas which the GHA own. Virgin Media installers had no such issues and blanketed the area.

      Good luck Scotstoun (G14).

  7. DaGreezer says:

    without prior notice is just unacceptable. How hard is it to push a letter through each door a few days before? They don’t wake up at 6am and say eh lets do that street now and pick one at random.

    I would love for cityfibre to come to my area, but i’d be hopping mad if I woke up one morning and the car was blocked in by their roadworks and barriers. I don’t know why they even have this problem at all.

  8. MRLeeds says:

    Virgin Media did this to a relatives house, knocked that morning and said you need to move your car in the next few mins or it’ll be stuck all day, two of their staff had a fight that had to be broken up by another staff member. They blocked both ends of a road, one to unload a truck, a member of the public who couldn’t get near their house got out the car to ask how long and the VM person told them to back off and wait very aggressively. I found cityfibre to be good when they did mine, but they used existing trenches and poles. I had an issue with how it was anchored to my house and messaged them and the local install manager called me to discuss and sent someone out to sort it within a few hours.

  9. colin says:

    The CityFibre contractors that did our road were brilliant. Got a knock on the door first thing to advise they were doing the work, we didn’t need to move our cars, they put steel sheets over their trenches when access was required to a drive. There were of course provided with a constant stream of biscuits and snacks.

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