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Fibre broadband arrives in Cumbria's 'hidden valley'

Wednesday, April 20th 2016 by Ellen Branagh

Communities along one of the oldest steam railway lines in England are to benefit from the arrival of fibre broadband.

More than 180 homes and businesses on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway route will benefit from fibre broadband thanks to Connecting Cumbria, the local superfast rollout project.

The arrival of superfast broadband to the area, known as the 'hidden valley', has been welcomed by locals and described as "vital" to the community.

Roughly one in five households and businesses in Ravenglass have already signed up to a fibre service, which is provided thanks to two new roadside cabinets in Ravenglass and one in Eskdale Green.

Rachel Bell, group marketing and events manager from the Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway – one of the oldest and longest narrow gauge railways in England – said good quality communications is essential to the railway company’s future success.

The railway offers free wi-fi to customers at both ends of the line, in station cafés and in accommodation available on site, she said, which customers use for anything from browsing to downloading a commentary app, and uploading pictures to their social media accounts.

“At peak times of the day service levels can struggle with the demands placed on it,” she said.

“The availability of wi-fi services has become an expectation within the tourism sector – we are determined to continue to meet and exceed the needs of our customers.

“Any increase in broadband speed will only support us in doing this.”

Since October 2013, the Connecting Cumbria project – a partnership between Cumbria County Council and BT – has given access to fibre broadband to more than 119,000 homes and businesses.

'The best news'

Dawn Pickles, clerk to Eskdale Parish Council, said: “The provision of superfast broadband to Eskdale, the ‘hidden valley’ in the remote Western Lakes, is a vital part of our hopes to retain a viable, inclusive community here for the future.”

"Fibre will help children and other students study, as well as helping older and disabled residents us online ordering and medical services, and will help people work from home, encouraging people to stay in the community.

“The benefits to our local businesses will be enormous, allowing better use of websites and the provision of better visitor facilities such as free wi-fi in our hotels and guest accommodation.

“This is the best news that our tiny community here on the flanks of England's highest peak have had in years.”

Mike Blackburn, BT north west regional director, added: “Every day the number of services available online, whether designed to entertain, educate, boost business or meet our daily needs, is growing.

“Online content and applications will continue to get more sophisticated making the availability of high-speed broadband ever more important.

“The highly successful Connecting Cumbria partnership, which has worked hard to reach so many rural communities, continues to make strong progress.

“When it is included with our commercial programme it means that fibre broadband is already available to nearly 224,000 Cumbrian homes and businesses.”

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