back to article BT still struggling to fix Olympic problems

BT has reconnected many of the Eastenders who lost their telecoms this weekend after a large thrust borer crashed through a deep tunnel, cutting fibre optic cable and copper line connections. But other services in East London, including traffic lights, are still cut off from the outside world, the firm admitted late Tuesday. …


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  1. neil hanvey

    oh dear

    am i the only one who read 'large thrust borer' as 'large thrust boner'?

  2. Tim


    Why was something this important uncharted, and why is there no resilience in the circuits? BT are remarkably incompetent considering how much profit they make.


  3. Gary F


    Now why would BT go to the expense of putting fibre optic cables linking £m of infrastructure together and not bother to chart and share the location of these cables? Why isn't there a central agency who collates data on the exact location of every cable, tube, pipe and tunnel that runs underground from every utility company? Isn't there a law that makes it a requirement to log this data and share it with every utility company?

    This is nothing short of gross incompetence. It's the utility company's job to know where every cable, tube and pipe is. It's not as if the fibre optic cables were 100 years old and lost to history!

  4. Richard Porter

    "We do hope no-one has got their metric and Imperial measurements mixed up."

    Isn't it well past the time when we should have got rid of our obsolete imperial weights and measures altogether?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Metric and Imperial

    So BT is still struggling with metric and imperial,

    Could this be why people still do not get the ADSL speeds advertised. ie. you need to be within X FEET of an exchange to get 16Mb rather than the advertised X METERS.

    Would explain a lot.

    Paris ?

    Never gets confused between feet and meters.

    Always puts shoes on her feet not on her meters

    What did you think I was going to say ??

  6. It wasnt me

    @ The Author of this fine piece.

    "Thames Water reckons its tunnel digger was working at ten metres. 34 feet is 10.4 metres. We do hope no-one has got their metric and Imperial measurements mixed up."

    No you dont. Dont lie. You would absolutely love it if someone got their metric and Imperial measurements mixed up.

    You would rip the pi$$ something chronic, and havea journalistic field day.

    And quite right too.

  7. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: @ The Author of this fine piece.

    I believe that was the point. But it never hurts to hammer it home with the hammer of the literal, does it?

  8. Anonymous Coward

    "We do hope no-one has got their metric and Imperial measurements mixed up."

    Isn't it well past the time when we should have got rid of our obsolete metric weights and measures altogether?

    Always move towards the smaller measure when overestimation is a problem and larger when underestimation is a problem. Feet and kilometers for mining, Metres of carpet.

  9. Steve Foster

    32m down

    If Thames had drilled/bored that deep, there are only two possible things they'd hit - either:

    a) a tube line, or

    b) the water table

  10. Will

    Re: 32m down

    @Steve Foster - Thames Water has lots of stuff much deeper than 32m.

    No idea about BT - it does seem more likely to be feet than metres, but London is a strange place...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    There was a report on tv recently regarding the Olympic project (around the time of the stories of polish workers shipped in rather than using local UK workers).

    One comment i found quite staggaring was how difficult they seem to be finding it to know where to build stuff , mainly as it is a huge site that is mostly dirt (i.e. no land marks to navigate by) but still this is major and gross incompetence on the behalf of the contractors.

    BT put the line down there, I expect they have notified the relevant authorities and the contracting company used a guy who didn't have GPS on his drill or could not read the english on the schematics or even assumed that the measure in FEET was metres (since that is the common measure in europe).

    Either way, as much as dislike BT, i think it is down to the contractors...

  12. Elmer Phud

    How is it BT's fault?

    So far it seems that contractors for Thames Water thrust a large boner up BT's pipes. There may be a discrepancy in measurements (I thought it was just us and Merkins - ah, progress). Two companies more or less agree on the location but not Thames.

    BT have managed to reconnect loads of circuits and not arse around going for costs before fixing anything.

    No different from the usual JCB-assisted broadband disconnection, just a posher tool to screw things over.

  13. Steve Evans
    Paris Hilton

    @Steve Foster

    It's okay Steve, the tubes are on the surface there.

    Although part of me would love to see the chaos if they had hit a tube!

    Paris: Because she thinks all holes should be well documented

  14. Phil Kingston

    compo who are probably looking very hard at their contracts this morning.... especially the compensation sections. As BT are likely doing too. Wonder how much that'll cost them?

    Safety glasses - as should be worn when in control boring machines, especially large thrusting ones.

  15. Anonymous Coward


    BT provide serveral types of resilence. One provides an extra wire in the same duct, a more expensive option provides an extra cable on a different route to a different exchange.

    Guess which one is more expensive.

    Residential phone and broadband lines have no resilience, because no one wants to pay twice the line rental.

    Blaming BT for lack of resilience is like blaming Pirelli because you couldnt be bothered to buy a spare tyre.

  16. Ross Fleming Silver badge


    BT are talking about "below street level" and everyone else is talking about "below the surface". Perhaps there was an old overpass about 22m up that's no longer there. Or a rather big hill that's been bulldozed.

    Either way, I think the sorry tale can be explained here:

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Having fairly extensive experience in this field (I used to be an architect), I'd be confident that it was infact a cock up between the civil engineers and BT. In my experience, BT are as useful as a chocolate teapot. The contractor can only work to the plans that he is given. I feel dirty for saying that.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    @Phil Kingston

    No contract exists between BT and anyone involved here. It's either criminal damage or negligence - contract law won't apply (other than to establish who pays the costs - contractor or company that employed them)

  19. James

    Perhaps the operators ...

    .. need a refresher course...

  20. Neil Moore


    Tiscali have been blaiming this incident as the reason my father has not had any internet access.

    He lives in Wiltshire...

  21. Yorkshirepudding

    epic fail

    could only happen in the UK couldnt it, the same country where the gasman digs up your road makes a hash of filling it in and then the water board cock it up a month later by digging it up again

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re uncharted

    Relying on charts alone for detecting underground services in a busy urban environment strikes me as fundamentally flawed. There are companies who specialise in detecting these sort of things (and I would have thought major contractors would have either made use of these sort of services, or have similar technology themselves). Records can be lost, incomplete or innaccurate there are dozens of different organisations to contact and there is the potential for some redundant underground installations for which nobody is now responsible. Then there is the possibility of site errors or misinterpreting records. There is, as far as I know, no common database of underground services - there was some attempt at a legal requirement for utilities to do provide underground service information for emergency services, although just how comprehensive that is, I don't know.

    This is what one specialist company (Vision Survey) quote in their brochure:-

    "There is general recognition throughout the construction & utility industries that historic ‘as built’ records of underground utility assets are not sufficiently accurate."

    They seem to have chosen their address appropriately :-

    Unit 11 Borers Yard, Borers Arms Road, Copthorne...

  23. Mike Richards

    @ neil hanvey

    'am i the only one who read 'large thrust borer' as 'large thrust boner'?'

    No, but I suspect El Reg relish any opportunity to emphasise it wasn't just a borer, nor even a large borer, but a large THRUST borer.

    Personally I think the whole story cries out for Playmobilisation. Not quite as much as the Home Sec's sec. home home sex is positively gagging for it, but it's been a while since the Reg brought Playmobil's laser-like insight to a story.

  24. Yorkshirepudding

    @ mike richards

    i second that

    we demand playmobilisation forthwith go on make it our easter egg el reg....

  25. Kevin Reader
    Paris Hilton

    @Mike Richards

    I feel harmed by your mention of "gagging for it" and the "Home Sec" - eek nasty image.

    Equally had anyone in the said residence been "gagging for it" it is unlikely that the Home Husband would have needed to entertain himself....

    Personally I prefer the two alternative theories on the internet: a) the Home Husband had popped out for a quick one leaving the security team alone and bored, he then takes the blame rather than explain who he'd had the quick one with. b) it was the Home Teenage Son and dad's taken it on the chin rather than explain that one to the press. Necessary Disclaimer: Naturally neither of these things is true.

    I just take my coat off Paris... oh better not ... bye.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Definitely a measurements problems

    It's quite simple really. If somebody (BT / whoever) can balls up calculating distance DOWN then they can balls up calculating distance ACROSS.

    "Yeah, drill a big hole 32 meters down 32 meters from that big landmark"

    Can be very easily mistaken for:

    "Yeah, drill a big hole 32 feet down, 32 feet from that big landmark, minding the cable tunnel"

    <-- Paris, because if somebody threatened to get a drill to her hole she'd make sure that they didn't miscalculate it.

  27. elderlybloke
    IT Angle

    This happens to Americans too

    A few years ago , NASA had an Orbiter that they sent to Mars.

    Everything went well and the time came to put the space craft into the orbit.

    However there were two teams involved in the project, one worked in metric and the other in Imperial system.

    The distance of the orbit from centre of Mars was calculated in miles by Imperial team , and set as Kilometers by the metric team.

    The distance instruction to the craft meant that it tried to orbit at was beneath the surface of the Planet.

    Rather more expensive than your local problem

    Also making as built plans and putting the altered /finished location in the records is fundamental ,

    but alas not always done.

  28. Andy Watt
    Thumb Down

    Thames Water?

    I see they're diverting attention away from their vast bloody charges and pipes full of holes by punching holes through other peoples' pipes, and lowering QoS on other vendors' services...

    Thames Water, you suck. As usual.

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