POOR mobile phone coverage in the most rural parts of Tynedale is set to become a thing of the past.

The news that the Government has struck a £1bn deal with the main network providers, EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, to share phone masts to improve UK coverage has been celebrated across the district.

The Shared Rural Network programme will see the phone operators invest £530m to create new masts and improve current ones which will be able to be accessed by all phone users, regardless of which network they were on.

This sum will be supported by a £500m investment from Westminster.

Sitting MP for Hexham, Guy Opperman, led calls for the shared network by writing to the then Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright, and he said he was delighted with the announcement.

Mr Opperman said: “This is fantastic news. It will make a huge difference to so many people in rural parts of the Hexham constituency where, in some areas, there is no mobile coverage at all.

“It will put an end to the frustration felt by thousands of people across rural Northumberland who currently feel cut off, and it means people will get good 4G signal on the go wherever they live, work or travel.”

Coun. Nick Oliver, county councillor for Corbridge and the council’s portfolio holder for corporate services, said: “We’re working hard to bring connectivity to rural Northumberland with over £15m for broadband from the Government announced this summer and a generous broadband voucher scheme for residents and businesses.

“This is an important and welcome further step.”