BT criticised after lengthy delay in repairs

The damage caused by the treet at Menmuir
The damage caused by the treet at Menmuir

A Menmuir resident has hit out at BT as the area faced a second incident of no internet or telephone connection following a tree severing telegraph cables.

Callum Dunleavy contacted the Brechin Advertiser after a second tree cut connection to the community just three weeks after BT repaired another broken cable.

However, Callum said it took a four-week battle with the company and the help of Angus MP Mike Weir to get the initial problem fixed.

The issue is one that has affected Menmuir before. Callum revealed: “For the last five years, every winter our landline phone and internet has come down due to the wind as trees across the road have fallen onto the telegraph lines severing them.

“This year, about seven weeks ago, winds blew a tree over severing a telegraph pole which supplies us our internet and phone connections.

“Over the course of four weeks since the line was severed we made lots of frustrating contact with BT care on Twitter and BT Openreach via internet on my mobile ‘phone, which I can only access a mile along the road from my house up a hill.

“During this time they frequently gave us dates of when an engineer would come out to inspect the fault.”

However, no engineer appeared. He continued: “They said that engineers were currently out fixing the fault, but when looking outside I could see that no engineers were out working at all.”

Eventually another date was issued for the repair, and Callum was told the engineer would be out to the area in two weeks times. Callum commented: “This would mean that our landline and internet would have been down and unusable by us for a total of six weeks.”

Unable to wait any longer, Callum sought help from his local MP, Mike Weir. He explained: “After having waited four weeks already, we were fed up by now and since this was the fifth year in a row when this has happened in which we’ve had to wait a month, we took action and contacted our MP, Mike Weir.

“Three days after contacting him engineers came out and removed the tree and re-attached the cable in three hours. We had waited four weeks for them to send engineers and the job itself only took three hours.

“To add to injury, friends living just outside Forfar lost connection but since they lived on the outskirts of town, they had their fault fixed overnight and restored by the next day. BT’s treatment of rural people compared to town dwellers is awful and frankly unacceptable.”

Now with another tree having fallen on another line, Callum once again sought the help of Mr Weir, with engineers repairing the fault on Friday (November 22).

The experience has left Callum with a taste for politics. He said: “This regular and annual bad treatment to us rural people has inspired me to become a politician when I am older so I can get equality and justice for my community as I am sure this poor track record will continue and another stretch of cable will fall down next time we get a gust of wind.”

Mr Weir said: “Mr Dunleavy has contacted me twice in recent weeks due to difficulties with his telephone service.

“I took the matter up with BT and in both instances the problem was fixed quickly.

“Unfortunately the problems he has faced are not unique as I am regularly contacted by constituents who are experiencing problems with telephone services in rural areas. BT is, however, a regulated private company and we can only continue to press them to take urgent action and look to deal more quickly with the longer term problem.

“There is a real danger of a digital divide opening up as urban areas get faster broadband services whilst rural areas are left behind.

“The Scottish Government is investing very substantial sums in ensuring the super fast broadband is available throughout Scotland, both urban and rural areas. BT needs to look urgently at the infrastructure in many rural areas and take action to ensure it is more robust.”

A spokesperson for BT commented: “Unfortunately, over the years strong winds have brought down trees which have damaged the overhead telephone network running through the trees to the Dunleavy home on a number of occasions.

“The latest issues occurred as a result of extreme winds which hit the area in October and then again last week.

“The gales caused a lot of faults in that part of Scotland and engineers endeavour to reach everyone affected as quickly as possible.

“The reason the repair in October took longer than in previous years was due to the extent of the damage.

“The fault was reported on October 10, and engineers discovered that fallen trees had brought down 220 metres of aerial cable crossing four separate spans between telegraph poles, which had also been damaged by the snapping wire.

“Due to the length of the cable which had been brought down, they were unable to provide a temporary service, though this was one of the things they looked at immediately.

“A survey was carried out and the permanent repairs planned. Estimated repair times were provided but these do have to be subject to change as engineers often encounter hidden issues once repair works are under way. Service providers should keep their customers informed of changes.

“These repairs were completed on October 29.

“Unfortunately the area again suffered very strong winds last week and a 90 metre stretch of the new cable was snapped by another falling tree, which has also damaged a cabinet and pole. This was reported last Thursday and engineers provided temporary service within 24 hours and are now planning permanent repairs.”