High-speed fibre network steams ahead to connect rural communities

Homes & businesses on the Ravenglass train route are able to hop aboard the new high-speed fibre broadband service Local council heralds arrival as ‘best news in years’

Communities along a steam railway line, famed for being one of the oldest of its kind in England, are now benefitting from the latest high-speed communications technology.

Fibre broadband is available to more than 180 homes and businesses on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway route, thanks to the Connecting Cumbria partnership. And about one in five households and businesses in Ravenglass have already signed up to a high-speed fibre service.

Engineers from Openreach – BT’s local network business - have switched on two new green fibre broadband roadside cabinets in Ravenglass and, most recently, one in Eskdale Green.

Rachel Bell, group marketing and events manager from the Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway, which is one of the oldest and longest narrow gauge railways in England, welcomed the arrival of fibre broadband in the area and said good quality communications was essential to the future success of the railway company.

“We offer a free wi-fi service to customers at both ends of the line, in the station cafés and within the accommodation available on site,” she said. “Customers use this wi-fi for a raft of reasons from general browsing to the downloading of the commentary app which supports their rail journey.They also use it to take pictures and upload to their social media accounts, all great coverage for the station.

“At peak times of the day service levels can struggle with the demands placed on it.The availability of wi-fi services has become an expectation within the tourism sector – we are determined to continue to meet and exceed the needs of our customers.Any increase in broadband speed will only support us in doing this.”

Since October 2013, the Connecting Cumbria project – a partnership between Cumbria County Council and BT - has installed more than 500 fibre broadband cabinets, with more being switched on every day. More than 119,000 households and businesses now have access to fibre as a result of the project.

Dawn Pickles, clerk to Eskdale Parish Council, said: “The provision of superfast broadband to Eskdale, the "hidden valley" in the remote Western Lakes, is a vital part of our hopes to retain a viable, inclusive community here for the future.

“It will enable our children and other students to reliably complete online study and communicate with school friends from other villages, it will enable older and disabled residents to maintain their independence by using online ordering and medical services and it will be a boon to home working residents, allowing people to stay here in this supportive community for as long as possible.

“The benefits to our local businesses will be enormous, allowing better use of websites and the provision of better visitor facilities such as free wi-fi in our hotels and guest accommodation. This is the best news that our tiny community here on the flanks of England's highest peak have had in years!”

David Southward, Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for economic development, said: “This is another example of Connecting Cumbria reaching homes and businesses in small and remote communities. Getting fibre to rural locations is no easy task, but it’s a very important one. It is equally important for people to understand how they can benefit and take the opportunity to upgrade when the new technology arrives in their community.”

Mike Blackburn, BT North West regional director, said: “Every day the number of services available online, whether designed to entertain, educate, boost business or meet our daily needs, is growing. Online content and applications will continue to get more sophisticated making the availability of high-speed broadband ever more important. The highly successful Connecting Cumbria partnership, which has worked hard to reach so many rural communities, continues to make strong progress. When it is included with our commercial programme it means that fibre broadband is already available to nearly 224,000 Cumbrian homes and businesses.”


Press contact:Please contact the BT Regional Press Office on 0800 085 0660. All our news releases can be found at www.btplc.com/news

Notes to Editors:

About Connecting Cumbria

The Connecting Cumbria Programme’s ambition will, by a combination of commercial investment and gap funding, enable access to Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband to 95 per cent of Cumbrian homes and businesses when added to the private sector’s commercial rollout.And Connecting Cumbria is providing two thirds of its rollout with speeds of more than 50 mbps.

There is, in addition, a commitment that all Cumbrian properties will have access to speeds of at least 2Mbps. This includes working with some of Cumbria’s remotest communities to extend the fibre network through innovative community projects in the hardest to reach areas.
Connecting Cumbria will ensure maximum coverage is achieved from available resources, demonstrating maximum value for money. Cumbria County Council has a continuing commitment to expand NGA broadband services and make NGA broadband service available to additional areas across Cumbria as funding becomes available.

About BDUK

Superfast Britain is a Government programme of investment in broadband and communication infrastructure across the UK. Run by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, this investment helps businesses to grow, creates jobs and will make Britain more competitive in the global race. The portfolio is comprised of three elements:

  • £780m to extend superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017
  • £150m to provide high speed broadband to businesses in 22 cities
  • Administered on behalf of Government by Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), Superfast Britain is transforming Britain by promoting growth, enabling skills and learning, and improving quality of life.

    For further information: https://www.gov.uk/broadband-delivery-uk

    About BT

    BT’s purpose is to use the power of communications to make a better world. It is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in more than 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband, TV and internet products and services; and converged fixed-mobile products and services.As of 31 March 2016, BT consisted principally of six customer-facing lines of business: BT Global Services, BT Business, BT Consumer, EE, BT Wholesale and Openreach.With effect from 1 April 2016, the group has been reorganised and the customer-facing lines of business are now:Global Services, Business and Public Sector, Consumer, EE, Wholesale and Ventures, and Openreach.

    For the year ended 31 March 2015, BT Group’s reported revenue was £17,979m with reported profit before taxation of £2,645m.

    British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.

    For more information, visit www.btplc.com