Fibre ducting helps to bring faster internet access for Cambridgeshire communities

New bus and cycleways in Cambridgeshire are helping to speed up digital delivery and save carbon emissions, as well as offering more sustainable travel options.

The Connecting Cambridgeshire programme, hosted by Cambridgeshire County Council, is working with Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) to explore how data, emerging technology and digital connectivity can be used to transform the way people live, work and travel.

Fibre ducting is being integrated during the construction of new bus and cycle ways as part of the programme’s innovative ‘Dig Once’ policy – one of the first of its kind in the country to be adopted by local councils, which is bringing measurable benefits for local people and the environment.

The fibre ducting is being made available on a commercial basis via Light Blue Fibre Ltd, a joint venture with the University of Cambridge allowing telecoms operators to avoid costly and disruptive retrofitting and encouraging them to extend gigabit capable broadband networks connecting businesses and communities that would not otherwise have access.

Over 21 km of fibre ducting has been installed or is planned during the construction of new road, bus and cycleway schemes across Cambridgeshire by 2025. These include major transport upgrades such as those carried out by the GCP on Histon Road and Milton Road in Cambridge, and planned cycle paths for Linton and Papworth.

According to the Highways England calculator, the ‘Dig Once’ policy is estimated to have brought carbon savings of over 20 tonnes CO2e emissions over two years by using less materials – equivalent to the carbon emissions of nearly half a million miles driven by an average car.

Using the same calculator, installing fibre ducting during the construction of bus and cycleway schemes in Milton Road is estimated to have saved over 4 tonnes of CO2e emissions in the reduction of materials used per km of duct compared to retrospectively fitting it.

Cambridgeshire County Councillor and Greater Cambridge Partnership Executive Board Member, Elisa Meschini said: “We welcome this innovative approach, which shows the benefits of working collaboratively to improve residents’ quality of life and the environment by bringing access to the latest digital connectivity, making it easier to travel sustainably and saving carbon.”

Dig Once Case study: Gigaclear

Innovative ‘dig once’ collaboration saves time, money and carbon

Gigaclear engineer

Greater Cambridge Partnership’s plans for Linton Greenway, one of 12 greenways proposed across the Greater Cambridge area, brought an opportunity to integrate 1.4 km of fibre ducting in the cycleway as it passes Hildersham. Combined with existing ducting from Light Blue Fibre, this has enabled telecoms provider Gigaclear to extend its rollout of gigabit broadband along an 11 km stretch without having to retrofit ducting in the road, saving time and money.

Gigaclear, which is the UK’s largest rural alternative network provider of full fibre broadband, is using the ducting to install fibre broadband to reach more than 2,000 homes and businesses that might not have had access otherwise. The company is investing £39million extending its fibre broadband network into Cambridgeshire, also benefitting communities in Stilton, Sawtry and Alconbury.

Gigaclear Project Manager Gary Darvill said“We welcome Cambridgeshire’s ‘Dig Once’ policy because, where it is possible to use existing infrastructure, it makes sense to do so on so many different levels – environmentally, financially and by reducing disruption!

“In this situation, in order to support our roll-out of full fibre broadband to underserved rural communities in the county, we needed to run our fibre optic cables along a 9km stretch from Great Chesterford to provide more than 750 homes in Great Abington with a fast and reliable broadband service. Then, from Great Abington we are able to take our network a further two kilometres to the community in Linton where we’re planning to connect more than 2,000 homes and businesses.

“Rather than embark on expensive, time-consuming and disruptive engineering work to lay our cables along this 11-kilometre stretch, we’re working with LightBlueFibre to use their existing fibre ducting.

“By entering into a commercial agreement to use this ducting, we’ve managed to provide the connectivity to these areas without the disruption of major civil engineering works and we’ll be able to give property owners in Great Abington and Linton full fibre broadband access far quicker than would otherwise have been the case. The collaboration between Gigaclear and LightBlueFibre is really paying dividends for all involved.

“Gigaclear actively looks to use other networks to reduce the impact of engineering in this way as we rollout our full fibre broadband networks into other areas.”

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