Bilsdale transmitter: Interim mast switched on in North East tomorrow

HUNDREDS of thousands of homes right across the region are set to see improved TV services tomorrow as an “interim” mast is switched on.

More than 100,000 homes in the North East and North Yorkshire are set to see major improvements to coverage as the new Bilsdale mast goes live. 

Operators, Arqiva today (February 22) confirmed a new 80-metre temporary mast had been erected and is more weather-resilient – and the last step to restore services.

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However, it is understood 1,250 homes primarily along the Durham Coast will lose signal again as they fall within a “signal shadow” from the new mast.

The Northern Echo: Chief Executive of Arqiva Paul Donovan in front of the new interim mast Picture: CONNOR LARMANChief Executive of Arqiva Paul Donovan in front of the new interim mast Picture: CONNOR LARMAN

In a briefing held at the Bilsdale mast site on Tuesday, Arqiva’s chief executive, Paul Donovan, told The Northern Echo they were “100 per cent ready to go.”

Mr Donovan assured The Northern Echo that the new mast will be more weather resilient with its new “lattice” structure.

He said: “One of the things that you will notice, a cylindrical structure actually takes the full force of the wind whereas a lattice structure allows the wind to flow around it.

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“It’s also lighter, so in terms of ecological footprint and carbon footprint, it’s actually more user friendly.

“So effectively it’s a best of breed modern design and is a replica of one that already  exists in our estate so we’re very confident on how it performs under different weather conditions.”

However, addressing the fact that some homes would be without coverage, Mr Donovan said work to reconnect those affected was “going really well.”

He said: “The work on reconnecting people in the shadow area is going really well, we’ve directed two direct marketing campaigns so mailing individual households, we’ve carried out an extensive advertising campaign, including in The Northern Echo encouraging people to come forward.

“We also have an Arqiva van which has actually been parking in locations that are being affected so we can answer people’s queries face-to-face.

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“So that regeneration activity has resulted in more than 200 homes being fixed and their antenna re-pointed.”

But urging people to report outages via the company’s free hotline on 0800 121 4828, Mr Donovan said they anticipate people will “put their hand up.”

He said: “We expect that when we go live tomorrow and there are homes that go dark, that people will put their hand up and so we are ready and willing to move on and we can do around 100 homes a day.

“What we don’t know is how many have Virgin or Sky or how many homes are already pointed towards Pontop Pike.

The Northern Echo: The new interim mast Picture: CONNOR LARMANThe new interim mast Picture: CONNOR LARMAN

Asked whether the majority of people need to do anything after the switch on tomorrow, Mr Donovan said “no.”

He added: “For those people who have issues with their signal they should just try and retune their TV, instructions of which are on our website.

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“For anyone who is actually struggling with that, we recommend that they call our free-phone number where we have experts on the phone telling people what they can do.

“We have a clear understanding of those who fall in the shadow area and they will be put in a separate programme, which includes a call from an engineer to re-point their ariel and make sure they get full service from Pontop Pike.”

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