MP visits broadband build as speeds set to bounce near historic Derbyshire dam

The Hope Valley in Derbyshire is one of the first places in the UK where Openreach is using a new way of putting fibre cables in the ground, which is cleaner, quieter and much faster than traditional methods.

In the shadow of Derwent Dam – where the famous Dambusters carried out training missions with their bouncing bombs in 1943 - High Peak MP Robert Largan joined Openreach’s Chief Engineer, Andy Whale, and Regional Director, Kasam Hussain, to see the result of a new approach to building underground fibre networks.

The previous day, the new and innovative ‘Clean Fast’ machine had been in action, a 25 tonne piece of kit that can simultaneously channel out a 60cm deep trench, suck all the debris out of it, install new underground network and then quickly seal it up again.

It means significantly less disruption to local life, with roads closed for shorter periods of time and all of the mess normally associated with laying cables underground automatically collected, reducing dust and debris and ensuring nothing goes to waste.

MP Robert Largan was impressed: Looking for new ways of working is hugely important, and this work will be welcomed by those set to benefit. I was really impressed by how neat and tidy the completed trench was and it was hard to believe the bulk of the work had taken place less than 24 hours earlier. This approach enables Openreach to work in a far more efficient and environmentally friendly manner than ever before, and that’s important, particularly in a national park.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve spent time with Openreach engineers and I’m encouraged that they continue to share my determination to do everything possible to make sure people living and working across High Peak have access to fast, reliable broadband, wherever they happen to be.”

The work to bring Ultrafast full fibre broadband to the local area around Derwent Dam is being carried out by Openreach’s Chief Engineer team, who’re renowned throughout the industry as the best at working in difficult, remote and inhospitable terrain.

Andy Whale, Chief Engineer at Openreach, said: “Places like The Hope Valley can prove to be challenging from an engineering point of view, but we also know these rural communities need fast and reliable broadband more than most. We’ve worked incredibly hard to come up with a plan to build full fibre here, and our engineers are doing a great job of putting the network in place. A faster connection will make a huge difference to places like the local visitor centre, enabling things like card payments, which depend on a reliable connection.

“Being able to use the new Clean Fast machine is a game changer for us. It’s the first time we’ve used it here in the Midlands and it really does allow us to work faster and with less disruption. We can move along a stretch of road cutting a deep narrow trench, clearing out any debris and laying ducting underground in one swift motion. The machine is also quieter than you’d expect, can work quickly – usually around 1000 metres in a day, compared to 20m historically - and it gathers up any debris and dust as it goes.

“It was a pleasure to show the MP the results of our engineering, and we’re looking forward to using it elsewhere in Derbyshire and across the rest of the UK in support of our extensive nationwide build.”

This work taking place in Derbyshire is part of Openreach’s nationwide effort to build gigabit-capable, future-proof full fibre broadband networks - used by the likes of BT, Sky, Plusnet, TalkTalk and Zen - in cities, towns and villages as part of a plan to reach 20 million premises by the mid-to-late 2020s.

Future-proof Ultrafast full fibre broadband is capable of carrying speeds up to 1Gbps - around 15 times faster than the UK’s current average - bringing more reliable, ultrafast broadband services to communities.

More than 1,600 Openreach people live and/or work in the East Midlands and 140 new engineering roles were announced in December 2020.