Greg Wright: How the wrong kind of telegraph pole caused weeks of misery for a Yorkshire business

A Yorkshire entrepreneur has been driven to distraction by the lack of a phone service
A Yorkshire entrepreneur has been driven to distraction by the lack of a phone service
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YOU’VE heard of the wrong kind of snow causing headaches for travellers.

Well, here’s the improbable story of the Yorkshire business that has been almost crippled by the wrong kind of telegraph pole.

This saga has cost the company up to £40,000 and revolves around a chain of events that ought to belong in an Ealing comedy. But it’s been no laughing matter for the businessman at the heart of it, and it does make you wonder about the quality of customer service in 21st century Britain.

I’ve been contacted by Keith Bradley, the director of Yorkshire Metal Roofing, which supplies roofing products as far afield as Truro and the Shetlands.

At the end of March, the company moved from a site outside Harrogate to a new base at South Milford. The company placed orders to install new phone lines for its sales office and factory on the site at Pointer Farm.

It seemed like a straightforward request. Several companies already trade on the site, which is well served by telephone lines. Mr Bradley contacted BT, and he was told that there would be no problems providing telephone lines using the existing cabling, and an installation date of March 30 was offered.

Mr Bradley told me: “This fitted in with our arrangements and so we worked towards the opening of our new site on April 1. The engineer from Open Reach duly arrived on the date and completed the wiring work inside our building. He was able to confirm that the number we had been offered was available and good to go. However, he advised us that some additional external cabling work was required, which could take up to 48 hours. This was not a major issue because we planned to staff the office from April 4, and would put the phones on divert for existing customers from Harrogate on that date.”

With all apparently well, the staff at the new office arrived for work and waited for the phones to start ringing. And waited. By April 6 it was clear something was wrong, so Mr Bradley called BT to complain. After a flurry of calls and emails, Mr Bradley was finally told that it might be necessary to close the road next to his company, to allow new cabling to be installed on a telegraph pole.

A BT spokesman told me: “We are very sorry for this delay in providing phone services. When an engineer attended to connect the line he established that additional overhead cabling was required. Unfortunately the pole was not suitable for the engineer to climb, so the only solution was to use a hoist. Due to the location of the pole, a survey was required which determined that traffic management would be required in order for the work take place. The relevant permissions, which are subject to notice periods, are now in place and traffic management will be in place on May 12.”

Mr Bradley is furious about these costly delays and plans to make a complaint to Anna Soubry, the Minister for Small Business.

He said: “In 2016, in a developed country in northern Europe, is this the level of service we should expect?”

Mr Bradley said that a booking has finally been made by Open Reach for a slip road closure on May 12.

He said: “Assuming this allows them to compete the wiring work, it will have taken them almost 12 weeks to install two new phone lines – and six weeks after we moved our business. These telephone people cannot be allowed to cause so much distress and threaten the very livelihood of small businesses.”

Mr Bradley will never know how many customers have tried to contact his office in Yorkshire, received no reply and placed their business elsewhere. Nobody wants to see telecoms engineers take risks with their safety, and sometimes road closures are unavoidable. But Mr Bradley’s frustrations will ring a bell with many small firms. After all, BT is supposed to be in the communications business. It has patently failed Mr Bradley.