Northumberland MP gets up to speed on Openreach’s broadband build

Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP visits Alnwick for an update on Northumberland Full Fibre build

Berwick-upon-Tweed MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan has met with Openreach’s chief engineers to witness first-hand the innovative engineering techniques used to deliver ultrafast, ultra-reliable full fibre broadband across her constituency.

She was given a tour of the work and an update on the build, which has already reached more than 28,000 homes and businesses across Northumberland - including more than 7,000 in the north of the county. This is a result of both the company’s own commercial investment and the iNorthumberland broadband partnership with Northumberland County Council.

Locations such as Alnmouth, Alnwick, Bamburgh, Berwick, Lesbury, Longhoughton, Rothbury and Scots Gap are just some of the areas that are already benefitting from the new technology, with work continuing to reach even more homes and businesses.

Openreach has also announced that Amble, Longframlington, Lynemouth, Otterburn, Seahouses, Shilbottle and Ulgham have been added to their commercial build plans whilst the iconic Holy Island is also going to be upgraded.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP said: “I am delighted to see for myself the huge progress being made by Openreach to deliver full fibre to our rural communities. I have been campaigning for years for Northumberland to be able to reap the full benefits of these amazing technologies, and the importance of ensuring our harder-to-reach communities are connected, not just those areas that are easier and cheaper to reach.”

The visit to Alnwick was hosted by Catherine Colloms, Openreach’s Managing Director of Corporate Affairs and Chair of their North of England Board, who said: “We welcomed the opportunity to give a step-by-step demonstration of our technology, as well as an update on the build. Our local teams work hard every day to keep communities across Northumberland and the wider region connected, and it was great to be able to share the challenges and realities of delivering this life changing infrastructure.

“We also stressed our ongoing commitment to building a more diverse workforce, both UK-wide and here in the North East. We’re investing for the future so that we have the local, skilled and experienced workforce we need to support our investments across the North East and this year alone we’ll create 140 new jobs here, including around 70 apprenticeships.

“We want to reflect the communities we serve and give opportunities to people from all backgrounds, so I’d encourage more women and people from minority groups to check us out and consider a career in Openreach.”

Alongside its recruitment drive, Openreach has committed to represent ONS measured levels of ethnic diversity3 across the UK and is aiming for at least 20 percent of its trainee engineer recruits to be women this year, with 50 percent of its external hires into management also to be women by 2025. You can read more about the company’s commitments to Diversity and Inclusion here.

Catherine added: “We already employ one of the UK’s largest team of telecoms engineers and professionals, but we’re absolutely committed to building a more diverse and inclusive team in an industry that’s traditionally been very white, male dominated. Last year, we attracted 600 women into trainee engineering roles – more than double the previous year – but we know there’s a lot more to do.”

Openreach is building full fibre technology faster, at lower cost and higher quality than anyone else in the UK, having reached more than seven million homes and business so far including around 150,000 in the North East with tens of thousands set to follow.

Mike Poole, Chief Engineer Ops Director for the North, added: “In communities across Northumberland people are likely to notice an increase in Openreach activity. Our teams work hard to make sure that we keep any disruption to local communities to a minimum by reusing our existing network where possible, but it’s not always straightforward. Occasionally we do need to put up new telegraph poles or use traffic lights to enable engineers to work safely in the road, but full fibre will bring multiple benefits to people living and working across the county as well as welcome boost to the local economy.”

Recent research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) highlighted the clear economic benefits of connecting everyone in the North East to full fibre. It estimated this would create a £1.7 billion boost to the local economy.

Openreach is working to make the technology available to as many people as possible throughout the UK and the company’s plans are fundamental to the UK Government achieving its target of delivering ‘gigabit capable’ broadband to 85 per cent of UK by 2025. The company will invest billions of pounds to reach a total of 25 million premises by the end of December 2026, including more than six million in the hardest-to-serve parts of the country defined by industry regulator Ofcom.

Openreach employs more than 1,100 people across the North East and in February announced plans to recruit a create and fill a further 170 jobs – including around 70 apprenticeships.

You can find out more about our Fibre First programme, latest availability and local plans here.