THE operator behind the troubled Bilsdale transmitter made hundreds of “experienced” staff redundant last year which has contributed to delays in the mast being fixed, it has been claimed.

Last summer, Arqiva made around 500 people redundant, approximately a third of its staff, after confirming a “need to reduce the size of our workforce”.

Bilsdale transmitter: Site operators provide UPDATE on construction of new mast

The Northern Echo:

But insiders say the workers that remain have “very little knowledge” of how to deal with such an incident, which they claim has contributed to delays in people’s TV signal returning.

Although they confirmed a restructure took place last year, Arqiva have strongly denied the claims, adding they have “highly skilled and experienced staff who are working around the clock to restore services to people across the region”.

Thousands of people across the North East have been without TV signal for weeks following a fire at the Bilsdale transmitter on August 10. Work is now underway on the construction of anew 80-metre temporary mast to help restore services.

Speaking to The Northern Echo, an Arqiva insider said: “The main reason the Bilsdale transmitter is taking so long to reinstate is, in May, Arqiva made redundant a lot of very experienced staff including transmitter engineers, structural engineers and riggers, as well as people with experience in disaster recovery methods.

The Northern Echo:

“(These were) staff who knew where all the emergency equipment was stored and who had experience in this when the Peterborough mast went down in flames.

“This left very low paid inexperience staff with very little knowledge of this type of incident.”

The restructure was part of the site operator agreeing to sell its telecommunications division for £2bn to Spanish telecommunications infrastructure firm Cellnex Telecom in October.

The majority of proceeds from the sale, which was cleared by the Competition and Markets Authority in April, was to be used to reduce Arqiva’s debt.

A spokesperson for Arqiva said: “We don’t accept that suggestion. Arqiva has highly skilled and experienced staff who are working around the clock to restore services to people across the region as quickly as possible.

“On Monday we will provide an update on that progress.”

Earlier this month, BBC bowed to pressure from The Northern Echo to issue partial refunds to those who have been affected by the disruption at Bilsdale mast.

This meant that thousands of viewers were able to receive a refund as of last Friday September 10.

Only those who have not had access to a TV signal for a month and no access to on demand services such as BBC iPlayer are able to request a refund or extension.

BBC say they are using people’s post codes to assess who is in line for a refund.

Those who wish to request a refund or extension can call 0300 790 6130.

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