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Bad weather delays switch on of temporary Bilsdale mast

Darlington, UK, 01 October 2021: Arqiva today announced that poor weather conditions have forced a delay in switching on the new, temporary mast at Bilsdale.

A 100-strong team using helicopters have been working around the clock on the temporary mast, which is 80 metres tall, over recent weeks, and the building of the mast itself has been completed. However high winds, low cloud and heavy rain in recent days have forced a delay to the proposed switch on date next week.

The final installation work, checks and tests require good visibility and line of sight from the ground, while rain and winds above 20mph make it dangerous for workers to climb to heights and to lift equipment into place. Power lines and feeder cables to the antenna must be installed, and equipment has to be kept dry as it is fitted together to ensure safety.

As the safety of our staff is the most important factor, the weather has unfortunately forced a delay. Our aim is to complete all work, carry out the required checks and tests, and switch on the temporary mast to restore TV services for thousands more people in the period of October 13th to the 19th – again, dependent on the weather. We will provide more details in a media briefing in North Yorkshire on Monday.

The temporary mast will restore services to more than 90% of households across the region which has been affected by the fire at the main Bilsdale Mast on August 10th. Work to dismantle the old, fire-damaged mast will begin soon.

Arqiva this week set out plans – working with local authorities, housing associations and charities - to support and help those who will still not receive a service as a result of the switch on of the temporary mast. Called Project Restore, the priority focus will be on over 65s, and clinically vulnerable and vulnerable people affected. A new website will carry information and updates for those affected and their families and friends to find out more.

Adrian Twyning, Arqiva’s Chief of Operations, visited the site on Friday afternoon to meet the team, see progress and view conditions.

He said: “The team have been working tirelessly since we broke ground to meet the go-live date of 5th October. Unfortunately the one thing we cannot control is the weather and that has turned this week. I want to apologise to those people who were really hoping for their services to be restored after a long wait this week. We had worked hard for that too, and this is immensely frustrating.

“The wind, cloud and rain has a heavy impact on how we can work at height, and safety is our absolute priority. We will continue to work flat out to restore services to the people who deserve them, and we will provide a further update as soon as we can.”



The Bilsdale mast is the tenth tallest structure in the UK at 314m (1030ft) tall. (Arqiva operates nine out of the top ten).

The tubular structure weighs approximately 500 tonnes.

It provides Freeview TV, digital and analogue radio signals to the region, as well as mobile and some other ancillary services that require a broad reach.

Over 600,000 households are served by signals from the mast, however, it is worth noting that not all of these are solely reliant on Freeview for TV services (being able to access online services/players, the Freeview app, Freesat or subscription satellite or cable services).

Within 10 days of the fire we had returned some Freeview television signals to an area containing around 400,000 households. As of 08 September that number increased to over 500,000.

There are 14 direct relays (15 in total) which receive a signal from Bilsdale and pass it on to smaller areas, they have all now been restored.

Radio services have also been largely restored.

We have worked around the clock to restore Freeview services for people, and many have been able to make use of alternative means of delivery such as smart TV players, Freesat, wifi-enabled dongles or their subscription cable or satellite services.


About Arqiva:

Arqiva is at the heart of the broadcast and utilities sectors in the UK and abroad, providing critical data, network and communications services.

We work in partnership with our customers – major broadcasters and utilities like the BBC, ITV, Sky, Global, Bauer, Thames Water and Anglian Water – to meet everyone’s demand for information, content and entertainment and enabling a switched-on world to flow.

We are the only supplier of national terrestrial television and radio broadcasting services in the UK, consistently delivering digital TV, analogue and digital radio to people in all four corners of the country. We distribute over 1,000 channels internationally using our fibre and satellite infrastructure. Our advanced, secure and dedicated networks are also supporting the management of critical data for a range of smart metering networksin the energy and water sectors.

For more information, news and insights from Arqiva, please visit the website at: