Toy Box: Boys in the black stuff

Micro-trenching isn't as painful as it sounds. It's not a dental technique for gouging more money out of your wallet, but a way of laying fibre-optic cable in the streets without causing chaos and mayhem for months.

Micro-trenching isn't as painful as it sounds. It's not a dental technique for gouging more money out of your wallet, but a way of laying fibre-optic cable in the streets without causing chaos and mayhem for months.

The one-man machine lays cable just below the surface of the road, digging a very narrow trench, much more quickly than in conventional trenching. The fibre and its protective piping sit within the layer of black stuff, much like traffic light sensors.

But surely, you ask yourselves, this means the maintenance costs are much higher because all the traffic squashes the fibres flat? Well, no, apparently. For a start, we're talking about a line much closer to the kerb than most cars travel and secondly the weight is evenly distributed over the surface of the road rather than concentrated on a small point.

And the larger micro-trenching machines are able to dig a hole, lay the cable and cover it up at pace so by the time you're sitting in traffic on Monday morning they've already moved on.

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