A NEW 18km fibre spine beneath the A35 from Charmouth to Bridport is being installed by BT Openreach to bring superfast broadband to most of the town by July.

This is the first major work undertaken as part of the Superfast Dorset project, which is rolling out superfast broadband across parts of Dorset where faster, more reliable broadband is not available. By the end of 2016, 95 per cent of Dorset premises will have access to 24Mbps or more.

Engineers overcame challenges such as the wettest winter on record to prepare existing ducts for the new fibre ahead of schedule, according to Openreach project manager Andy Cadman. He said: “The fibre spine will connect Bridport to the services at Charmouth which ultimately allow access to the internet.

“First we had to prove the duct was unobstructed from Charmouth to Bridport via Chideock, before we can ‘blow’ the fibre through the duct. We normally expect to prove about 1km per week but were able to get the whole length completed in seven weeks – half the time we were planning.

“We did this even though the rain had contributed to filling many of the manholes with silt which had to be cleared.

Also, as this was all along the A35 trunk road, we were working at nights for five weeks in pretty poor conditions throughout.

“We thought we would have to replace a section of duct which had collapsed just outside of Bridport – the statutory notice for road closures alone would have meant a three-month delay to the Bridport rollout.

“Fortunately, after a whole night in pretty filthy conditions the team managed to find a way through with some sub-duct, which meant we didn’t need to close the road after all.

“Another challenge was crossing the River Winniford in Chideock, which required 37m of new duct. Again, we did this at night to minimise disruption.”

From the Bridport exchange, fibre will be taken to local roadside cabinets.

Bridport residents can expect to see download speeds of at least 24Mbps. In future, speeds along fibre are expected to rise even higher still, as technology improves.

According to regulator Ofcom, the average current download speed in Dorset is 10.9Mbps.

Residents and businesses need to contact their service providers to move to a fibre-based service. All providers can access Openreach’s fibre network on an open, wholesale basis.

This will help keep costs down for customers taking up a superfast service when it becomes available.

Keep in touch with the project to find out when superfast broadband becomes available in your area by signing up for the e-newsletter on dorsetforyou.com/superfast.

Look out for further information in the Bridport News.