Arqiva to host virtual meeting with local MPs following criticism of its handling of the incident, which has left some households without Freeview TV for over a month.
Work on a temporary 80 metre mast close on Bilsdale West Moor began this week after a four-week delay caused by legal issues. Together with three emergency transmitters surrounding the North York Moors, Arqiva expects to restore coverage to 90% of affected households.
To comply with conservation requirements, work includes excavating heather after which the area will be re-seeded. Stone used on site has also had to be specially selected stone to ensure the right levels of acidity for the surrounding environment. A team of 100 is supporting the site’s clearance and mast construction.
Originally, Arqiva hoped to have the temporary mast up and running by the August Bank Holiday. In the meantime, it has added coverage to the south of the area through a third emergency mast (Cleveland Road, Sutton Bank). This is in addition emergency sites at Eston Nab and Arncliffe Wood serving areas to the north and north-west of the Moors and Teesside. All relay transmitters in the Moors and Dales are now live. These have been reconfigured to receive services from satellite or from another Freeview transmitter.
Arqiva says it is now working with local organisations to provide support for viewers who won’t have their signal restored. This affects around 10% of households in Bilsdale’s coverage area. That’s because none of the masts are as high as the over 300 metre high Bilsdale structure. As a result, the signal will not be able to penetrate as far across the region as before. Arqiva has committed to assisting the most vulnerable viewers first. Support for viewers is understood to be one of the main themes at a meeting with local MPs today.
Arqiva was heavily criticised after the fire on the 10th August for an apparent lack of a contingency plan. It has attempted to shift the blame on the delay to restore services on planning laws and even the state of access roads. Some industry insiders argue these issues should have been flagged in contingency planning exercises. There is no alternative tall transmitting mast nearby, unlike at transmitter sites serving Birmingham, Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow, London and Newcastle.
The fire at Bilsdale transmitter on 10th August threatens the existing mast. Arqiva is appointing contractors to handle matters at the original site. Meanwhile an investigation in to the fire is still ongoing.
Adrian Twyning, Chief of Operations at Arqiva, said:
“We are working 24/7 to restore services to as many people as possible across the North-East and North Yorkshire. This is complex work, involving multiple agencies and highly skilled teams. We are fully committed to the task at hand.”