Bilsdale transmitter fire

Senex

Established Member
Joined
1 Apr 2014
Messages
2,610
Location
York
Households left without TV reception after a transmitter fire could wait up to 14 days for services to be restored.
The blaze at the Bilsdale mast impacted Freeview, DAB, and FM radio signals for more than a million people across North Yorkshire, Teesside and County Durham.
I wonder how many of us here are affected by last Tuesday's serious fire at the Bilsdale transmitter and how surprised people are by the apparent lack of very much news coverage of the event and its aftermath. The "reception" page of the BBC's web-site has not been updated since Thursday. Freeview's web-site is simply telling us that many people in unspecified areas are likely to have to wait until 28 August to get any television reception via their aerials.

The organisation of broadcasting seems to parallel that of passenger railway services: the final customer (passenger/viewer) has a financial relationship with the provider of a service (TOC/BBC) but not with the provider of the infrastructure through whose facilities the service is provided (Network Rail/Arqiva (owner of Bilsdale)). With the railway, it's the TOC that is recognised as having the prime responsibility for looking after the passenger in times of perturbation, and whilst there are regular horror stories most TOCs do seem to try their best and most seem to have got much better with things like the processing of refunds over recent years. In this Bilsdale broadcasting incident the BBC's service to its customers seems to have been pretty poor, with a real dearth of information, especially over when service might be resumed, and certainly no offer of refunds of a portion of the TV-tax for what might well be almost up to some three weeks without service.

Where I am in Central York some houses have their aerials set towards Bilsdale, some towards Emley Moor, depending on the one from which the installer could get the better signal, and obviously no-one wants to get their aerial altered for a worse signal when at some stage there will be a repair (and who wants Leeds/Bradford news when you can have Newcastle/Cumbria?). And there's no alternative cable service in this area (and no signs of any fibre computer cables!).
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Sponsor Post - registered members do not see these adverts; click here to register, or click here to log in
R

RailUK Forums

The Lad

Member
Joined
22 Jan 2015
Messages
361
Most TV is available through the internet via computer or a Roku box or smart TV.
 

DelW

Established Member
Joined
15 Jan 2015
Messages
2,274
Most TV is available through the internet via computer or a Roku box or smart TV.
If you have a fast enough connection, which is by no means always the case in rural areas.

AIUI Arqiva are intending to erect an 80m temporary mast at the site, but getting the necessary permissions and organising its construction is likely to take a couple of weeks.
 

skyhigh

Established Member
Joined
14 Sep 2014
Messages
2,338
AIUI Arqiva are intending to erect an 80m temporary mast at the site, but getting the necessary permissions and organising its construction is likely to take a couple of weeks.
This is the main issue- there's still a 300m exclusion zone around the tower in case of collapse. It's also in the middle of a Site of Special Scientific Interest, so they can't just bring in lorries and cranes wherever they want.

In addition, reception with the temporary tower will be worse than the permanent structure, which is 310ish metres tall.

Where I live I now don't have any freeview signal (and probably won't with the temporary tower). I suspect it'll be months before it's back on.
 

Ediswan

Established Member
Joined
15 Nov 2012
Messages
1,526
Location
Stevenage
This is not the first time a UK transmission tower of similar height and coverage has failed. In 1969, Emley Moor collapsed in bad weather. It took two years to fully replace that.

The difference this time is that the mast is still standing, but might no longer be structurally sound. Or maybe it is. Complicated.
 

bearhugger

Member
Joined
17 Mar 2015
Messages
476
Location
Middlesbrough
Living in Middlesbrough and being only 20 odd miles from Bilsdale, as the crow flies, we lost digital tv and FM radio signals. I have seen a post from the company that runs the mast that they are putting up temporary structures / masts at Eston Nab (link to Google Maps). I retuned my set top box and for a few days the quality was terrible - breaking up of sound & picture which made it unwatchable. seems to have settled down now. As has been said in previous posts, the location of Bilsdale Mast & the fact the site is a Special Scientific Interest site makes getting permission to carry out inspections and carrying out any work based on those inspections that little bit more awkward.
 

Darandio

Established Member
Joined
24 Feb 2007
Messages
10,062
Location
Redcar
Living in Middlesbrough and being only 20 odd miles from Bilsdale, as the crow flies, we lost digital tv and FM radio signals. I have seen a post from the company that runs the mast that they are putting up temporary structures / masts at Eston Nab (link to Google Maps). I retuned my set top box and for a few days the quality was terrible - breaking up of sound & picture which made it unwatchable. seems to have settled down now. As has been said in previous posts, the location of Bilsdale Mast & the fact the site is a Special Scientific Interest site makes getting permission to carry out inspections and carrying out any work based on those inspections that little bit more awkward.

I rescanned a couple of days ago, it's all working fine again here.
 

eMeS

Member
Joined
12 Jun 2011
Messages
870
Location
Milton Keynes, UK
Living in Middlesbrough and being only 20 odd miles from Bilsdale, as the crow flies, we lost digital tv and FM radio signals. I have seen a post from the company that runs the mast that they are putting up temporary structures / masts at Eston Nab (link to Google Maps). I retuned my set top box and for a few days the quality was terrible - breaking up of sound & picture which made it unwatchable. seems to have settled down now. As has been said in previous posts, the location of Bilsdale Mast & the fact the site is a Special Scientific Interest site makes getting permission to carry out inspections and carrying out any work based on those inspections that little bit more awkward.
I wonder which came first? The transmitter site, or the SSSI? I also wonder if there's anything like "grandfather rights" for whichever was there first?
 

Senex

Established Member
Joined
1 Apr 2014
Messages
2,610
Location
York
Good to know that some people are getting service back. There's nothing in York yet, and absolutely no news about what's going on, either from the BBC or from Freeview. They clearly haven't read the modern handbooks on customer relations!

That's an interesting question about the relative timing of transmitter and SSSI. I'm guessing that as the transmitter goes back to 1969 that was first on the scene. But whichever it was, it's interesting that with a major item of national infrastructure — as any one of the big transmitters surfely is — it's apparently necessary to go through planning procedured before you can effect emergency arrangements.
 

Mcr Warrior

Established Member
Joined
8 Jan 2009
Messages
6,359
Might folk on the area who have been affected by loss of service be entitled to a partial TV Licence refund?
 

skyhigh

Established Member
Joined
14 Sep 2014
Messages
2,338
They now have the required permission to construct a temporary transmitter just outside of the exclusion zone of the damaged mast.
 

Senex

Established Member
Joined
1 Apr 2014
Messages
2,610
Location
York
Information from the BBC (who take our money!) and Freeview continues to be pretty useless, but there's some interesting stuff on the Arqiva web-site. Apparently the temporary mast at Bilsdale is to be 80 metres in height, as opposed to the 300-odd metres of the mast proper, which makes one wonder what sort of range it will have, given that they have all been stressing that TV signals work on line of sight. Will those of us at the end of Bilsdale's normal range expect to get anything? No-one's saying. Arqiva are also saying that there is now access to the main mast for fire specialusts amd engineers to assess its condition.
 

yorksrob

Veteran Member
Joined
6 Aug 2009
Messages
32,237
Location
Yorks
This is not the first time a UK transmission tower of similar height and coverage has failed. In 1969, Emley Moor collapsed in bad weather. It took two years to fully replace that.

The difference this time is that the mast is still standing, but might no longer be structurally sound. Or maybe it is. Complicated.

Yes, Yorkshire viewers were apparently without BBC2 or ITV for some weeks.
 

Big Tim

Member
Joined
21 Jan 2017
Messages
112
Location
York
I'm in North East York, and haven't suffered any television / radio problems through the aerial (I don't have satellite / cable), as the strongest received signal for me is transmitted from Emley Moor. I can also usually opt to set my preference to either the Bilsdale transmitter, or even Belmont near Market Rasen in Lincolnshire when I do a retune, though should I choose to do so. However, a friend only 1.5 miles away as the crow flies cannot receive anything (on the north side of York), and is getting by using internet catchup etc. - he cannot pick up any signals whatsoever, so the York issues are certainly localised depending on where you live.

I had to drive up to Binchester (between Newton Aycliffe and Bishop Auckland) over the weekend, and could not receive much in the way of FM radio signal once I was north of Dishforth on the A1, so I guess that was down to the Bilsdale fire.
 

dgl

Established Member
Joined
5 Oct 2014
Messages
1,768
There is some more information on the Transmission Gallery website here: http://tx.mb21.co.uk/gallery/gallerypage.php?txid=744&pageid=4078

But basically at the moment they are using the pre-existing Eston Nab site until something can be done at Bilsdale (both TV and Radio), this has involved originally, changing the RBL from Bilsdale to Pontop Pike, changing the polarisation of the TV relay that is already there to horizontal polarisation and upping the power, although that has only been from 10 to 20W (I would assume the existing Log array/feeders can't handle any more power) and it only transmitted the PSB Muxes, that relay has since been repurposed to provide 3 of the COM multiplexes with a temporary tower brought in so they can transmit the PSB multiplexes at a much higher power.

Some of Bilsdale's relays have been brought back online by temporarily moving their RBL antennas so they receive Pontop Pike and one is using a DSAT feed for PSB 1-3.

Naturally the 80M tower that is proposed so be erected at Bilsdale will have nowhere near the coverage of the 1000ft tubular mast, and if the mast does need replacing we will be waiting a while for that to be completed, though if the 700Mhz clearance works at Emley Moor are finished then they could potentially use the temporary ~1000ft mast that they are/have been using whilst the permeant replacement is built.

One important thing to note about Bilsdale is that it is of a tubular steel design, made up of curved steel sections, and as such you need to enter the mast to properly see any problems unlike the more common lattice design where you have somewhat easy visibility of the inside of the mast.
Also note that tubular steel designs are not the best having many design issues the the original designers did not foresee, as the collapses at Emley and Waltham showed, and as such they probably have to be even more cautious about the structure.
Lastly, at least they don't have the issue this time of trying to get an RBL off air feed to an identical mast that they also fear may be at risk as happened during the Emley collapse.

And for this that are interested here are some links to information on the Emley and Waltham collapses,
Emley collapse: mb21 - The Transmission Gallery
Waltham collapse: mb21 - The Transmission Gallery
 

LAX54

Established Member
Joined
15 Jan 2008
Messages
3,400
If you have a fast enough connection, which is by no means always the case in rural areas.

AIUI Arqiva are intending to erect an 80m temporary mast at the site, but getting the necessary permissions and organising its construction is likely to take a couple of weeks.
Parts pf our location, which is 5 miles from Colchester, sees a max of 2mb, and no FTTC, where we are a mile further on, we get 5mb and 30mb FTTC
 

Mojo

Forum Staff
Staff Member
Administrator
Joined
7 Aug 2005
Messages
18,985
Location
0035
If you have a fast enough connection, which is by no means always the case in rural areas.
Is this still the case? I’ve just had a week away in Cumbria and almost every green cabinet at the side of the street had stickers advertising the Superfast fibre broadband that was avaliable in that area - looking online it seems there has recently been a real drive to get rural areas hooked up onto fast internet. Meanwhile in the suburbs I’m still stuck with quite a slow connection.
 

DelW

Established Member
Joined
15 Jan 2015
Messages
2,274
Is this still the case? I’ve just had a week away in Cumbria and almost every green cabinet at the side of the street had stickers advertising the Superfast fibre broadband that was avaliable in that area - looking online it seems there has recently been a real drive to get rural areas hooked up onto fast internet. Meanwhile in the suburbs I’m still stuck with quite a slow connection.
As I mentioned recently on another thread:

"... last month I stayed with relatives in north Devon and my speedchecker gave a best result of 1.5Mbps on their wifi. Unfortunately they've been quoted a five-figure bill for a faster link. No chance of streaming anything :("

How representative that is of rural areas generally I can't tell though. Where they live there are only two other houses within about 1/2 mile radius, one of which is only used on occasional weekends, the other is occupied by a young family who wouldn't be able to afford a contribution to the cost. Their only connected services are electricity and copper-wire phone line, they're not on mains water, sewage, or gas.
 

dgl

Established Member
Joined
5 Oct 2014
Messages
1,768
Some explanations of terms from my previous post, noting that I am not exactly an expert just that I have an interest in these things,

PSB = Public Service Broadcaster, the multiplexes 1-3 that have all the main BBC/ITV/CH4/CH5 channels (noting that some of the extra C5? and ITV channels are not present), these are broadcast from all transmitters, both main stations and relays.

COM = Commercial, the multiplexes that house the non-core/commercial channels (Dave, Challenge, Yesterday, Food Network Etc.), these are generally only broadcast from the main transmitters and relays covering important areas (Salisbury for example), basicaly where they will get the most bang for buck.

RBL = Re-Broadcast Link, a way transmitters can get their signal, generally by picking up the off-air signal from the main transmitter for the area or via a cable/fibre or sometimes a microwave link on the main sites. i.e. the Weymouth relay picks it's signal up from Stockland Hill. These will generally be transposed onto different frequencies (well blocks of frequencies called "channels", Weymouth picking up the PSB multiplexes from Stockland Hill on channels 26/23/29 and re-broadcasting them on channels 44/41/47).

Polarisation = Essentially the orientation of the radio waves being transmitted, either horizontally or vertically, AFAIK horizontal polarisation is generally seen as superior (probably partially as a horizontally orientated antenna will have less wind loading) and is used for all of the main sites with vertical polarisation used for most relays to help prevent interference.
Naturally there are exceptios to this rule and some relays do operate with horizontal polarisation if needed and noting that the main station at Rowridge on the Isle-of Wight uses both Horizontal and Vertical polarisation, with (as I understand) only the PSB multiplexes being transmitted at full power with horizontal polarisation as it was decided that vertical polarisation would help counteract interference with France (noting that most aerials pointing at Rowridge would also be pointing at France.

Log = Log Periodic Antenna, a type of simple wideband antenna used at a lot of relay sites for both transmission ad receive and at some main sites for low power local TV.

DSAT = Digital Satellite

Looks like Arqiva are also errecting a short mast (15M) at Arncliffe Wood, which I understand is a BT microwave link site

[quote"tx.mb21.co.uk"]A temporary 15m mast is currently being erected at Arncliffe Wood which should improve reception for viewers in Catterick, Leyburn, Masham and Ripon.[/quote]

Hopefully within a few days Arqiva will know the extent of the damage to the mast and we will know what the permanent fix will be and roughly how long that may take, which if it needs a new mast could be quite a few months.

Edit: Some more updates from Arqiva (operators of the Bilsdale mast and most other TV transmission sites)

Arqiva said:
Updated 19/08/2021

We are pleased to report that the planned power increase at Eston Nab has been completed this morning (19/08), which has increased coverage for TV (PSB1, 2 and 3 multiplexes featuring the main BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel5 services) to more than 250,000 households in total.



SDL and D1 Digital commercial radio multiplexes - including stations such as Absolute Radio, Classic, Planet Rock, Times Radio, Scala Radio, Boom Radio, Kiss, Magic and Talksport - are now also broadcasting from Eston Nab to much of Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees and the coast to Hartlepool.



We can also confirm that in the last 48 hours the Digital TV relay at Peterlee has returned to service, as it is now taking its feed from our Pontop Pike site.



Work to install additional equipment at Arncliffe Wood to further extend coverage is also in progress and is still expected to be complete by this weekend.



Freeview Comment



If you live around Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees, Redcar, Thornaby-on-Tees, Darlington, Barnard Castle, Richmond or Billingham, you may now see some channels on your TV as a result of the continued engineering work. If your TV is still struggling to pick up any signal, an automatic retune could help. For information on how to retune, alongside detailed advice for each area, please visit our website at https://www.freeview.co.uk/bilsdale-transmitter



If your TV still can’t pick up a signal, we understand how frustrating this must be, and engineers are working round the clock to further improve the coverage as soon as possible. If you have an online connection, you can watch Freeview content via a connected Freeview Play TV, the Freeview website, or the Freeview mobile app.
 
Last edited:

Senex

Established Member
Joined
1 Apr 2014
Messages
2,610
Location
York
Well, there still isn't any restoration of service here in York, and whilst both Arqiva (the mast owners) and Freeview are being quite good at saying which areas have a restored service and how many households can receive, they're not giving any list of which areas are still not served nor of when there might be some progress.

Information from the BBC continues to be lousy, even though that's the body that takes our money.

An interesting comparison with the railways arises. Does anyone know under what powers the network owners (now NR, previously BR, previously LMS etc, etc) obtain access to the trackside after a major incident such as the HST near Laurencekirk, the Grayrigg accident some years ago, the cutting failure near Armathwaite, and so on?

In general they always seem to have been able to get to the scene to start work pretty quickly.

In the case of Bilsdale, Arqiva, the mast owner, wants to build an 80-metre temporary mast and bring in transmitter equipment and needs access across privately-owned land (which is also an SSSI) in order to be able to do the work (which it was earlier promising to have done by 28 August).

However, nothing has even started yet as they have been unable to reach agreement with the landowner and are apparently having to go to court to seek some sort of order. Clearly they cannot move with the speed the railway has for many years been able to achieve after an incident. Also, can we envisage any railway parallel to a situation where a private landowner can apparently prevent repair to what must surely count as an item of the national infrastructure in this fashion?

Do we still live even at this sort of regional level in a feudal society?
 

johncrossley

Established Member
Joined
30 Mar 2021
Messages
1,220
Location
London
I wonder how many people have just gone out and got a satellite dish installed instead of waiting for the resumption of terrestrial service?
 

87 027

Member
Joined
1 Sep 2010
Messages
599
Location
London
which is also an SSSI

I suspect this is a significant obstacle. Government is currently consulting on relaxations to planning rules for mobile phone masts but the relaxations are not proposed to apply to SSSIs. Also, telecoms is not considered a critical utility for wayleave purposes in the same way as gas, electricity and water.

Playing devil's advocate it could be argued that the BBC's output is available online via iPlayer and Sounds so the absence of a terrestrial transmission facility is not an insurmountable difficulty, unless you are in that last 2-3% of the country that doesn't have decent broadband.
 

dgl

Established Member
Joined
5 Oct 2014
Messages
1,768
Well, there still isn't any restoration of service here in York, and whilst both Arqiva (the mast owners) and Freeview are being quite good at saying which areas have a restored service and how many households can receive, they're not giving any list of which areas are still not served nor of when there might be some progress.

Information from the BBC continues to be lousy, even though that's the body that takes our money.

An interesting comparison with the railways arises. Does anyone know under what powers the network owners (now NR, previously BR, previously LMS etc, etc) obtain access to the trackside after a major incident such as the HST near Laurencekirk, the Grayrigg accident some years ago, the cutting failure near Armathwaite, and so on?

In general they always seem to have been able to get to the scene to start work pretty quickly.

In the case of Bilsdale, Arqiva, the mast owner, wants to build an 80-metre temporary mast and bring in transmitter equipment and needs access across privately-owned land (which is also an SSSI) in order to be able to do the work (which it was earlier promising to have done by 28 August).

However, nothing has even started yet as they have been unable to reach agreement with the landowner and are apparently having to go to court to seek some sort of order. Clearly they cannot move with the speed the railway has for many years been able to achieve after an incident. Also, can we envisage any railway parallel to a situation where a private landowner can apparently prevent repair to what must surely count as an item of the national infrastructure in this fashion?

Do we still live even at this sort of regional level in a feudal society?

Naturally the acts that created the railways are a bit different to the permissions agreed to erect television/radio transmission structures and getting about has more priority than watching TV so getting permission may be difficult.

Note that freeview is owned by BBC/ITV/CH4/SKY/Arqiva so it naturally easier to have just freeview giving out information.

As for saying which areas now have TV and which ones don't, that can be a difficult question as without sending a survey van round to all areas to check for signal in a lot of areas they just won't know, RF is a black art and only guesses can be calculated.

There are also now pictures on the TX gallery of lower sections of the mast which shows paint that has clearly been removed/damaged by the fire, the receive FM radio log antennas attached to the lower sections of the mast still seem to be undamaged so it would seem that the fire was contained within the mast/base building.
Bilsdale Mast Fire, mb21 - The Transmission Gallery

and lastly the latest mini update from Arqiva
Arqiva said:
Updated 27/08/2021 - More relay transmitters back on air

We continue to work through the process to enable access to the Bilsdale site to build the temporary mast. There is no specific new detail to share at this point but we are continuing to work round the clock to find a way forward.

Meanwhile, this week has seen the successful restoration of some Freeview television services for those who receive signals from the smaller relay sites in the following areas:

Grinton Lodge

Ravenscar

Aislaby

West Burton

Romaldskirk

These relays normally receive a signal from the main Bilsdale mast (Aislaby actually takes its signal from Ravenscar) and ‘pass it on’ to the communities in the area that cannot see the main mast.



We once again apologise that services have not been restored as quickly as we’d hoped and will provide a further update as soon as possible.
 

davews

Member
Joined
24 Apr 2021
Messages
329
Location
Bracknell
From what you say is most of York lacking Freeview at the moment?
It is surprising that the main issue seems to legal access and SSI. If the mast had actually collapsed and caused damage I imagine they would have been able to just walk in. Emley Moor didn't faff around like this, but it wasn't Arquiva in those days.
 

dosxuk

Member
Joined
2 Jan 2011
Messages
1,059
Things would be a lot simpler if the mast had actually come down, they'd be into site clearance by now in that case, plus would have access to their own land for temporary facilities. Latest I heard was the 300m cordon was still in place and inspections are still only being done by drone, with there still being major concerns about the integrity of the mast structure. The nature of tubular masts means that getting access to the inside is needed to inspect it properly, but nobody is going to want to go climbing up in there after it's been on fire. The lift will almost certainly be damaged beyond repair and there will have been done very nasty chemicals released by the cables burning.

Allegedly the difficult landowner found out the intended use of the land in question and increased his asking price significantly leading to the break down in talks.
 
Last edited:

johncrossley

Established Member
Joined
30 Mar 2021
Messages
1,220
Location
London
From what you say is most of York lacking Freeview at the moment?

Many if not most people in York can also receive Freeview from Emley Moor or Belmont. But that would typically mean turning the aerial around which for most people means paying someone to get up on the roof. Many if not most people will be using old cabling or aerials from before digital switchover. The quality of the cables and aerial may be good enough for Bilsdale as it is the strongest signal but these items might need replacing if people decided to switch to weaker signals. If you are going to do that then you might as well get a satellite dish.
 

Top