670,000 viewers with TV signal as Bilsdale mast is switched on after almost two years

It left thousands of people without TV and radio for months but after nearly two years - the new Bilsdale mast has finally been switched on.

The new Bilsdale mast, which is live as of 22 May, will provide around 670,000 viewers with a permanent TV signal again.

The mast, which is the 12th tallest in the UK, started transmitting on Monday 22 May. Credit: Arqiva

The mast has taken almost two years to erect following a fire in August 2021.

The incident left electrical shops like Maxwell's of Northallerton being inundated with calls for help.

Neil Maidwell, service manager at Maxwell's of Northallerton said: "It didn't get too bad to be honest. We had quite a few of the older customers couldn't manage it.

"But we managed to call out and sort them out and give them as much advice as we could."

Today (22 May), ITV Tyne Tees asked Arqiva if the company's initial response had been acceptable.

Shuja Khan, chief executive of Arqiva, said: "We worked as hard as possible to get restoration of services to 98 per cent of the population."

In October 2021, Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham called on Ofcom to carry out a full inquiry into the “wholly inadequate” response from site operator Arqiva to the ongoing issues.

Mr Khan said: "We put up 16 relay towers to re-provide services, we provided engineering support so more than 7,000 households had engineers visit them and give them that level of support.

"We managed 25,000 calls in terms of providing support and also 15,000 Curry's vouchers to those who couldn't get signal."

The fire at Bilsdale broke out at the transmitter on 10 August 2021.

The company said the fire was caused by water ingress to an electrical component, which led to some questioning whether the maintenance of the mast was adequate.

Mr Khan said: "It was a once in lifetime occurrence. We did a huge amount of work in terms of the investigation in terms of the cause of the fire."

He added: "Our maintenance regime is pretty robust and actually we've shored it up even further to make sure those types of occurrences are less likely to happen."

Some viewers may have to retune their TVs to connect to the mast, but now it is up and running, MPs have welcomed the progress.

Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald said: "I'm delighted it's back up and running. It's a vital link for people to keep in touch with the world especially those who are lonely and vulnerable. It's important for that contact and for their entertainment."

Redcar and Cleveland MP Jacob Young said: "I'd like to see people who were affected by the Bilsdale Mast outage refunded at least in part for the fact they were unable to get a TV signal from the BBC in that period."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...