Engineer camps out to keep Coll connected

Glasgow engineer Scott McPartlin has been nicknamed Openreach’s Bear Grylls after CAMPING on the island of Coll to keep remote customers connected during lockdown.

The Openreach engineer headed over to the Inner Hebridean island after a lightning strike left remote, vulnerable residents with no connection to the outside world.

Aware that he’d be on the island for three days between ferries and that local accommodation wasn’t available due to social distancing rules, he took his tent with him.

Parking his van when he could drive no closer, the dad-of-one from Rutherglen made the first of several three-mile hikes over the beach to Crossapol to reach the remote property.

After repairing the lightning damage, Scott set up camp at Feall Beach and has just settled down to watch the sunset when he got an emergency call-out from the island’s surgery.

He arrived at the surgery in the pitch dark, waiting until the air ambulance arrived with a doctor on board to fix a phone fault. He’s since been back to Coll twice to improve broadband connections for islanders.

Scott, 46, who joined Openreach six years ago after a career as an insurance broker, said: “The first customer was vulnerable, and he and his wife were self-isolating when their line got hit by lightning.

“There’s no road from the ferry to their home so it meant a long march over the beach – it was scorching and as much as Coll is stunning, it was tough going.

“Connectivity has never been more important than it is now, and I’m really happy to help. It’s no hardship as the island is incredibly beautiful and the people here are fantastic. Once they knew what I was doing, they opened up the bunkhouse for me to sleep in.

“It’ll be top of my list of places to visit out of work, once things get back to normal.”

Openreach patch manager Andy Baillie said: “Scott is a keen outdoors man and loves nothing more than spending the evening under the stars in his tent on some mountain top somewhere. He’s always willing to take on these challenges and the more remote and lonely the better. He’s Openreach’s very own Bear Grylls.”

Openreach engineers have been classified as key workers during the Coronavirus lockdown and are continuing to provide vital services to keep Scotland connected.

Their main focus is on connections that support critical national infrastructure like the NHS, pharmacies, emergency services and food distribution outlets; vulnerable customers; and those without any service.

Work is also continuing on network upgrades where it can be carried out safely, as fast, reliable broadband will be crucial to helping Scotland recover from Covid-19 economically.