Engineers’ unique Forth Road Bridge challenge to bring ultrafast internet to South Queensferry

The Forth Road Bridge is set for a “once in a generation engineering task” to bring ultrafast internet traffic to South Queensferry.

By Allan Crow
Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 8:04 am

The work by Openreach Scotland on Wednesday will see engineers use a giant air compressor to blow a continuous, 3km stretch of glass fibre right across the Bridge - at speeds of up to 60 metres per minute.

It’s the peak of a two-week project which has seen engineers work in enclosed steel tunnels under the bridge’s footpaths to prepare ducts for the new fibre link.

The unique challenge has been six months in the planning.

Openreach engineers are pictured at work on the Forth Road Bridge

Katie Milligan, who chairs Openreach’s Scotland board, said: “This is a unique moment for civil engineering in Scotland as two huge infrastructure projects come together.

“We’re building a new ultrafast digital highway – and going across the Forth Road Bridge is the fastest, most direct way to get it done.”

Work on the new, ultra-reliable network has already started in South Queensferry, and the new 16mm fibre cable – containing 432 tiny glass fibres each a tenth the size of a human hair – will deliver gigabit-capable internet services to thousands of residents and businesses on the south side of the estuary.

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Openreach engineers are pictured at work on the Forth Road Bridge

Katie added: “It’s impossible to join up spans of fibre on the bridge, so it has to be done in one long piece. It’s amazing to think that these tiny fibres will future-proof the internet for thousands of homes and businesses on the south side of the Bridge for decades to come.

“This is a once-in-a-generation engineering task to make broadband fit for the future, and we’re proud to be, literally, bridging the digital divide across this iconic landmark.”

Engineers have also built another 2km of fibre to the north approach, with the new network linking back to a main fibre hub in Inverkeithing.

Katie added: “It’s great to see the iconic Forth Road Bridge play a part in a new, digital era which, like the bridge itself, will serve Scotland for generations.”

Chris Tracey, unit bridges manager for BEAR Scotland, which is responsible for the road bridge, said: “We look forward to the benefits it will bring to local residents and businesses.”

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