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Bilsdale temporary mast progress update – Helicopters begin moving materials into place

  • First of over 200 air lifts of materials taking place
  • Build project remains on track for go-live on 5th October
  • Testing of 80m mast signals will require some service disruption on 4th October

Arqiva, the leading UK communications infrastructure and media services provider, has begun lifting materials on to the Bilsdale site by helicopter as part of urgent work to build an 80m-high temporary mast.

The temporary structure will return Freeview TV services to more than 90% of households across the area which were affected by a fire to the original Bilsdale mast last month.

Materials being lifted by air to the site include around 200 x 750kg concrete blocks which will anchor the temporary mast in place. The helicopter will also be used to transport the sections of the mast itself to the moorland site, along with the metal ‘sledges’ which house the concrete blocks.

The lifts are part of progress towards the building of the mast as teams work around the clock to help restore services to people. Once the material is in place, the helicopter will be used to then erect the mast itself by lifting separate sections one at a time to be secured in place by specialist riggers.

In total, the helicopter is expected to complete more than 230 lifts over the coming days.

Work to erect the temporary mast is dependent on the weather, but it is currently expected to be completed on Tuesday, 5th October.

In order to properly check that the new, temporary mast is covering the area in the desired way it is necessary turn off other temporary sites for a period the day before, Monday 4th October. That means households will see some disruption on that day, for which Arqiva apologises in advance.

Further updates on Arqiva’s work to restore service will follow in due course. A video update from the site is available and can be viewed here

Adrian Twyning, Chief of Operations at Arqiva, said:


“We are working around the clock to restore services to those people who are affected as quickly as possible. Using the helicopter is part of that effort and is the least disruptive way of transporting materials across this remote and sensitive environment.

“Arqiva has experience of using helicopters in this way, and we have successfully completed more than 50 projects on our sites over the years that required a helicopter to lift material or equipment into place.

“This is a huge logistical effort involving over 100 people and, subject to bad weather or any other unforeseen difficulties, we are making good progress towards completing the works on Tuesday 5th October.

“The 80m temporary mast more closely matches the coverage pattern of the existing mast than the temporary sites we have built at Eston Nab, Arncliffe Wood and Sutton Bank. Properly checking the 80m temporary mast requires us to turn off those other temporary sites for a period the day before, Monday 4th October. That means some households will see disruption to their service on that day, for which we apologise in advance.”

– Ends –


Notes to Editors:

  • The Bilsdale mast is the tenth tallest structure in the UK at 314m (1030ft) tall. (Arqiva operates nine out of the top ten).
  • At a total of 685m (2260ft) above sea level, it is one of the highest in the UK.
  • The tubular structure weighs approximately 500tonnes.
  • The Bilsdale transmitter provides Digital Terrestrial TV along with digital and FM radio signals to the area, including:

§PSB1, 2, 3, COM4, 5, 6, 7 & LTV – Television multiplexes

§BBC Radios 1-4, Radio Tees & BBC DAB

§SDL, MuxCO North Yorkshire DAB, BAUER Teeside, Digital 1

§TFM, Capital, Heart & Classic FM

  • It also provides mobile phone and other ancillary services that require a broad reach.
  • According to Freeview, more than 500,000 households are served by the mast
  • Not all of these households 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 nine days of the fire Arqiva had returned some Freeview television services to around 250,000 households, and the following day that was extended to around 400,000.
  • There are 15 relays 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.
  • Having provided a technical solution for the vast majority, Arqiva is now meeting with local organisations such as Age UK, local authorities and housing associations to discuss the best way to serve these people.