Residents of Craigavon in County Armagh (Northern Ireland) have vented anger at the quality of work and disruption caused after UK cable ISP Virgin Media began street works in the area. This forms part of a major expansion to extend the coverage of their TV and 500Mbps ultrafast broadband network.
The project was announced last year as part of Virgin Media’s pledge to reach up to 5,000 extra premises in Ballyclare and 1,200 in Portadown (here). At the time the operator said they intended to make use of narrow trenching techniques and would also be posting information leaflets to homes that might be affected (usually occurs at least a week before the work starts). A number of public information events were also held.
Despite those good indications many locals, primarily across the areas and estates of Clonmeen, Westacres, Pinebank, Gilpinstown, Drumbeg and Meadowbrook, have complained that they didn’t receive enough notice of the civil engineering work. Meanwhile others have been angered by the state of the pavements and roads after the work finished.
According to the Lurgan Mail, some locals felt trapped in their homes, while another disabled resident struggled to get of their home due to a large hole and a cancer sufferer had to be lifted over a garden fence in order to get out. In another case workmen are understood to have dug holes around one mothers car, which meant she was unable to collect her children from school.
A Virgin Media Spokesperson said:
“Virgin Media is in the process of expanding its network in Craigavon which will bring the UK’s fastest widely available broadband speeds to local residents and businesses. All homes and businesses have been notified of our expansion works in advance. We also have a local community liaison officer in the area and we hold pop up events to provide information.
With regards to the condition of pathways and roads, this is monitored by DFI Roads and any remedial work required will be completed before we leave the area. We also provide regular updates to Councillors and are in contact with the two Councillors in question about our expansion works. We have offered to meet them directly to discuss their concerns.
We apologise for any inconvenience caused to local residents.”
Unfortunately the original article only includes a few pictures and these don’t do a very good job of illustrating the biggest problem areas (except for the odd fallen barrier). However the article also contains a video and, while most of the work looks perfectly fine to us, there are a few places (mostly in the final third of the video) where work has not been fully protected (covered or cordoned off).
Local Sinn Féin Councillor, Catherine Nelson, similarly said she had “grave safety concerns” upon seeing Virgin Media’s equipment “lying haphazardly on paths and at exits and entrances to people’s homes.” Sadly this is by no means the first time that we’ve seen complaints about a lack of prior notification or shoddy street works from the cable giant.
On the other hand building such networks is rarely possible without a fair bit of local disruption, which can and often does attract plenty of complaints from residents. We’ve seen plenty of similar gripes directed toward rival operators, so Virgin are by no means alone. Other types of street work (e.g. resurfacing roads or installing new gas pipes) can also be just as disruptive.
Over the longer term a bit of disruption is usually a small price to pay for access to better connectivity, which can help to boost local property prices and give you a faster broadband connection. Meanwhile Virgin Media has reminded locals that they provide a 2 year guarantee period on their work and will return to fix any issues during this period.