/ Home & Energy, Technology

Should public phone boxes be removed?

Remote red phone box

For some of us, the memory of using a public phone box is a fairly distant one. With the rise of mobile phone usage over the past 20 years or so, there’s been a rapid decline in demand for phone boxes. But as guest author, Duncan, explains, for some communities, phone boxes are a lifeline.

In its wisdom, BT has decided to accelerate the decommissioning of phone boxes in areas where it deems they aren’t making much profit and where over 90% less usage has occurred in the past decade.

Surely the most hard hit in this drive will be those living in remote rural areas; particularly in the Scottish Highlands, mid Wales and many English country areas, where there are black spots for mobile phone coverage?

Rural phone boxes

In many rural areas, phone boxes are a lifeline when out and about as many residents either can’t get a signal or some may not be able to afford to own a mobile phone.

It must also be taken into consideration that many of those outlying areas are in mountainous regions where emergency services aren’t always within easy reach. Ofcom rules require BT to provide an ‘adequate provision of public call boxes to meet the reasonable needs of end users’. If BT choose to remove a phone box they must gain permission from the local council first, unless there’s another within 400 metres.

However, what would the reaction be if there’s a fatality on a mountain and a lack of a phone box meant no one was able to telephone emergency services? Campaigners in Wales have been fighting to save a red phone box in the Cambrian Mountains, the phone hasn’t worked for 18 months but is currently used as a shelter for ramblers. According to campaigners, mobile phone signal in the area is poor. So with only a few houses in the area and not another phone box for seven miles, this phone box is considered a lifeline.

But, it isn’t just mountainous areas where this could be a problem – you also have to rely on a phone box in flat moorland parts of England as often there is next to no mobile phone signal.

Future of phone boxes

In recent years, the government has pushed for more mobile phone coverage by private companies in areas where there is little or no signal, but progress has been pretty slow.

This coincides with BT’s seemingly accelerated programme to reduce Britain’s reliance on public communications. For example, under BT’s plans, Scotland would be left with around 3,300 phone boxes. While that sounds like a lot, just bear in mind the area they would have to cover – those without mobile phones or coverage would have to travel miles just to use the public phone.

And because a good proportion of those boxes set for decommission are the iconic red K series designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott from 1924, some people are arguing that BT is stripping the UK of its heritage.

Of course, where this is happening, BT is offering communities the opportunity to adopt their red phone box for £1, and many now house coffee machines, defibrillators and even a book exchange.

Even so, BT’s drive to decommission phone boxes has rightly caused great upset in local communities all over the UK, with local councillors complaining vigorously about it and determined to fight it.

Do you live in a remote area where a phone box is about to be decommissioned? Will you miss using a public pay phone, or do you no longer see the need for them?

This is a guest contribution by Which? Conversation Community Member, Duncan Lucas. All views expressed here are Duncan’s own and not necessarily those shared by Which?.

Comments
Profile photo of alfa
Member

Congratulations on your convo Duncan, very well written. 😊

I agree a public telephone could be a lifeline in many situations especially where there is no mobile signal.

There are also a lot of older folks who don’t own or use mobile phones. What are they supposed to do in an emergency? ☎️

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Thanks Alfa I did get help from Which staff , although I dont mind publicity I do get a bit embarrassed at anybody praising me as I have not been used to it in my life.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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Great work @duncan-lucas, I really enjoyed the read and great to see you as a published author on here 🙂

Red phone boxes are iconic and it’s sad to see them dying out, though some of the creative uses sound fun!

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Thank you Patrick I am lost for words as my life hasnt exactly been a happy one.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Improvements in mobile phone networks have meant that there are fewer black spots for coverage, but each year I find some when exploring the countryside when on holiday, even though I generally travel in a group that has phones which cover all of the networks. This has generally been a nuisance, but at the end of June I was stranded with a group of people in a rural area and was asked to call the emergency services. The connection kept dropping. A nearby phone box would have been very useful, though I don’t believe that there was ever one nearby.

I do not know the answers, but I suggest that there should be national standards about the provision of phone boxes and not just leave this to pressure from those who shout loudest.

Thanks for a thought provoking Convo, Duncan.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Thanks Wavechange.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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I’d back keeping phone boxes, duncan. It is not just about whether we have a mobile phone signal. We may not have a mobile, or not on us at the time, or a flat battery. A phone box is a service and if it does not make a profit then the local authority perhaps should subsidise it – it does benefit their community. Please make sure they take coins though.

Do we know what it costs to service a phone box? Seems a useful bit of information to make a rational decision.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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According to the BBC malcolm its costs quote- ” a bit over £1000 but councils can pay an annual fee of £500 to keep a working phone inside “-end quote.

Profile photo of Lauren Deitz
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It’s a great convo @duncan-lucas and I like Malcolm says it’s not just about mobile signal, although I have a mobile phone to keep me connected when I’m out and about, when I was in school I didn’t have such a device to enable me to call my parents. I know that a lot of children are given mobiles to use now, but that’s not the case for everyone. I used to have a BT card (I think my parents were fed up with my reverse calls from a pay phone). This card had a small amount of credit on it which I could insert into a payphone to be able to call only the numbers that had been registered to the phone. I recall those numbers being my home phone, my mum’s work phone and my grandmother. It was handy to have and there were plenty of payphones to call my parents from.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Thank you Lauren , I remember when those cards first came out as BT engineers were given them to use when calling to our control desk. They now seem to be worth some money , I still have my “Buzby ” mug and tin badge .

Profile photo of John Ward
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There is a sophisticated public telephone point with four payphones on Norwich station and the other day I saw someone going round checking the cash return trays on each one to see if there was any money left behind. No luck on that occasion – and since the installation is almost surrounded by a florist’s stall I expect she clears it every time it’s used. I suppose there are occasional rewards and it’s better than begging. City type – smart suit, collar and tie, polished shoes; works in banking or insurance I expect.

Profile photo of John Ward
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(Put your coins in the slot and dial the number. When the other party answers, press Button A. If there is no answer, press Button B to get your money back.)

I have noticed that although the AA and RAC have removed their roadside patrol boxes which had an emergency telephone cabinet accessible from the outside, there seem to be a number of modern emergency phones in lay-by’s on major roads and, of course along motorways. But there is no such facility on the miles of rural roads. Near where we live there is an extensive military training area with a weak or non-existent mobile signal coverage across most of it, and also in some of the river valleys there are problems of intermittent reception, so it’s not just the moors and mountains where a life-line might be necessary. Almost every village used to have a phone box [usually outside the pub] – I must start observing and see how many are left.

There seem to be hardly any phone boxes at railway and Underground stations these days – presumably the rule of ‘use it or lose it’ applies. I think the withdrawal of phone boxes should not be allowed in any area until it has comprehensive mobile coverage on all networks [by signal-sharing if necessary]. Perhaps in-car satellite navigation systems could have an emergency call function built-in to alert the emergency services at the press of a button as the map reference can also be transmitted [perhaps they already do – I don’t know, as we don’t have satnav]. On the roads, in the event of an emergency, flagging down a passing vehicle or going to the nearest property with a landline might be a way of getting assistance.

Unfortunately not many people carry an aldis lamp or know their semaphore codes these days so those methods of communication are not available, so I don’t think we should put the telephone box in Room 101.

I am glad you mentioned the 1924 ‘K’ type boxes, Duncan, which do truly justify the description ‘iconic’ as they are a defining characteristic of both the urban and rural landscape in the UK [as well as in Eire, although repainted green, and in some commonwealth countries; Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands keep theirs in tip-top condition]. I believe that in England all of the remaining ‘K’ type boxes are on the official list of buildings of architectural or historic interest at Grade 2 and cannot be removed or altered without listed buildings consent from the local planning authority. That should at least preserve their contribution to the popular image of English towns and countryside for a further period.

Old phone boxes sell for considerable sums depending on condition, and delivery & installation can be expensive. I once thought of getting one to keep the garden tools in but somebody down the road got one first and I didn’t want to appear to be a copy-cat.

Profile photo of Ian
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Speaking purely as one who lives on a Mountain in Wales the solitary ‘phone box sitting forlornly and unused most of the time has proved an invaluable lifeline here several times, when our home ‘phone landline has gone down. There’s no mobile coverages at all so without the box we’d be stuck.

Profile photo of Sophie Gilbert
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Thanks very much for the convo, Duncan.

BT’s removing of phone boxes has got b****r all (my asterisks) to do with health and safety and providing a service and everything to do with money and greed. For all the reasons stated already by everybody, we need phone boxes, we like phone boxes, we want phone boxes. The question is, how do we get BT to leave the remaining ones alone? Is the government so intent on letting privatisation take “care” of public (in the broad sense) services that it will do nothing? Do we lobby it?

Health and safety is not at stake here and it’s maybe unlikely for a wee while yet (hah?), but next we’ll hear the Royal Mail is doing away with post boxes, is proposing to sell them to the scrappies’ for pennies. Another icon gone.

Profile photo of John Ward
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Sadly, Sophie, no one’s noticed
Royal Mail steals our post-its.
First they make it 9 a.m. only
Then they observe it getting lonely –
Stick a notice over the slot,
Take it away, and that’s your lot.

Profile photo of John Ward
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Seriously, this really is happening quite a lot in rural areas. Many posting boxes have had their last collection changed to 09:00 [which means first class immediately becomes second class unless you write your letters overnight and go to the box at daybreak]. Since this leads users to drive to another postbox with a later collection the early post box attracts no mail, is declared unwanted, and is destined for removal. Again, like telephone kiosks, there is a healthy after-market in posting boxes and some people paint them a different colour and install them outside their house for incoming mail. In one Suffolk village recently a very early Victorian posting box was ripped out of a wall complete with contents.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Out of interest I have been trying to find the nearest phone box to my new home, which is on a small development about a mile from a small village, where we have a Post Office a village shop, a village hall with a defibrillator, and three pubs – but no phone box. 🙁 There is a possibility that there is a post box nearer than the village but I’ve not seen one and must check.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Thanks Sophie.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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You could try UKpayphone.com, but a search on my locality says it would cost me £26.82. Or you could go on Google Maps streetview, go for a drive and spot the red kiosk.

Duncan, BT will have a directory of public phones that they operate. Can it be accessed?

localpostbox.co.uk should help you – it shows post boxes on google maps.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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I will get back on that malcolm nobody has ever asked me that.

Profile photo of Sophie Gilbert
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First time my name’s been in a poem! A cracker! (Not because my name’s in it ;0) )

Profile photo of Sophie Gilbert
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How shocking, John, how sad.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Shortly after my last post I did discover a phone box in my village, in the mains street and hiding under a large tree. I may never need it and locals who have lived here for years are unaware of its existence, but it is comforting to know that it is there.

Profile photo of John Ward
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. . . But for how much longer? BT has just given notice of their intention to remove 56 telephone boxes across Norfolk [and plenty were closed down in a previous programme]. Their plan is out for consultation. The newspaper reporting this did not feel it incumbent upon themselves to list the affected towns and villages yet they’ll fill the front page with a story about someone’s prize-winning scarecrow.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I suspect that the fact that only one mobile network works in the centre of the village may enable it to survive a little longer. We do have a local magazine, beautifully produced in glorious black & white, that covers local issues. Looking back at previous issues, available online, I found reference to the phone box because there had been plans to reposition it a few years ago, so I expect that plans for its removal would at least be advertised.

Profile photo of alfa
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John, you could ask the newspaper to run an article on them and give them reasons why they should be saved.

Your local newspaper might not actually be produced locally so they might not know about them. When my other half wrote to our local paper, they ran an article on “was this the worst road….” and a few months later we had a brand new road.

Profile photo of John Ward
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The piece I read was in the Eastern Daily Press which is the regional newspaper for Norfolk and published from the centre of Norwich six days a week. The publisher also runs a stable of more local weekly papers covering market towns and surrounding villages and sometimes additional detail crops up in those. Since there are hardly any phone boxes remaining in our part of Norfolk except in the centre of small towns and the occasional village I won’t be following this up. It is sad though that people have become so reconciled to the loss of these public services that they acquiesce by default.

It occurred to me that since they have a power supply and at least one telephone line, public call boxes could surely be adapted to serve as hot spots for mobile networks in areas where signals are poor or non-existent. I can’t blame BT for closing the public payphones – it’s a classic case of use it or lose it.

We can see what’s going on around Jupiter but can’t make a phone call in Norfolk. Modern life, by Jove!

Profile photo of wavechange
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According to one source: “BT’s boss has bagged £5.4million in pay and perks.” Getting rid of public phone boxes will have helped with his remuneration. In my view, no-one should be paid a tenth of that amount, especially not those in charge of companies that provide vital public services. Obviously companies have to make a profit to fund development but high salaries and lavish advertising push up prices. I wonder if the highly paid executives of energy companies spare a thought for those who can’t afford to heat their homes.

I have no problem with companies that want to maximise their profits selling non-essential goods and services as long as there is honest competition.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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John -You would think that if all the facilities to provide a telephone connection are there that others could carry on providing a telephone connection to a telephone box. Not according to BT regulations that are “written in stone ” ,anybody taking over the box is prohibited from using it as a means of providing telephonic communications. It can be used for any other means UNLESS the council has in writing officially communicated with BT that they will subsidies the box on a yearly basis keeping the original BT line and using BT services . If councils dont do that then that type of service is banned

Profile photo of Carp
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Duncan Lucas – You are right about the prohibition on re-installing a telephone in an adopted box. It is clause 5.5.4 in the contract. I think this clause is illegal under competition law because it is a “restraint of trade”. I reported it to Ofcom and asked them to refer it to the Competition and Markets Authority. As usual, Ofcom refused.

Profile photo of John Ward
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Thanks for that information, Duncan. I am not surprised, but remain disappointed.

Profile photo of Erin Elahi
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I’ve taken a fair few road trips through America, and there are still great stretches of area in states like Montana where there’s no mobile coverage, and it’s daunting to think there’s no one but the cows to help you if you have some sort of emergency! At times like that I’ve wished for these iconic phone boxes in the US. But it would be a shame if such a valuable resource disappeared from rural areas in the UK for people in need.

Profile photo of Sophie Gilbert
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America’s vastness and remoteness in some parts perhaps make for scarier cinematic thrillers. In Big Sky Country, only the cows can hear you scream…

Profile photo of Ian
Member

🙂

Profile photo of John Ward
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In America, most roadside establishments like motels, truck stops and gas stations have a payphone available for public use. Perhaps BT expect UK businesses to provide a payphone. Before mobile phones took off in this country most pubs had a payphone but they have largely disappeared. I wonder how much longer hotels will find it worthwhile to provide a phone except for housekeeping and room service calls.

Sophie – if cows are grazing there will be some sort of habitation nearby as they must be milked. Perhaps they are heifers or steers which can graze without much attention.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Many places in the UK have payphones but, unlike public call boxes, they are not open 24/7 which is what is needed.

Profile photo of John Ward
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That’s right Malcolm, and not only that the payphone owner can set the calling charge at a much higher level than the standard public phone box charges.

Unlike America, this is a small country and it is not unreasonable to expect that anybody, anywhere, at any time, should be able to make an emergency call whether by mobile signal or accessible landline phone.

The amazing thing is that most of our public telephone kiosks in remote areas were installed in the years before the Second World War when, in relative terms, the cost of bringing an electricity supply and a telephone line to them was enormous. That infrastructure is still available for use and to abandon it would seem like folly just to save a relatively small annual maintenance expenditure.

I have seen a number of dramas where the inability to get a mobile signal or find a working telephone box have been essential features of the plot. In the interests of more creative writing and better viewing it’s time this was brought to an end as quickly as possible.

Profile photo of DerekP
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Hi john,

One popular example where the inability to find a working telephone box kicks off the whole plot is The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

PS – If we get rid of all our phone boxes, how will Superman cope with this ?

Profile photo of John Ward
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Superman can overcome any difficulty.

The escorts, masseuses and other private service providers will be more put out as they will lose their advertising sites.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Here is a definitive list of post boxes that existed in 2008: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/374/response/1164/attach/2/PO%20Boxes%20A%20Z.pdf

It was supplied by Royal Mail in response to a Freedom of Information request. I think it is disgraceful that companies were exempted from Freedom of Information requests, so we may not be able to get official information about the locations of post boxes or public payphones.

Profile photo of John Ward
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Thanks for that Wavechange. I obtained a list of post boxes three years ago when I was pressing the Post Office to provide more in areas that had experienced new residential developments. I found it on-line but cannot remember the source.

Ofcom must have a list of phone boxes. They could be made to make it accessible under the FoI Act surely.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Not easy getting the number of payphones left in Britain but two non government sources for all types of BT payphones put the number some years ago at a total of 51,000 . this figure will probably have decreased now . That would approximately mean 1.5 / square mile IF they were equally spread over the UK and IF the figure is correct now.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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BBC this year – there are approximately 47,000 call boxes in the UK according to BT -end quote. They must have phoned them personally .

Profile photo of wavechange
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Perhaps we could ask BT and Royal Mail to maintain a current list of public phones and post boxes on their websites. A database searchable by postcode or place name would be better. A request from Which? would carry more weight.

I found that there is a post box beside the nearest bus stop but now I will try to find out where the nearest phone box is.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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wavechange, now you can post a letter to BT and ask them 🙂

Profile photo of wavechange
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Very good, Malcolm, but I was hoping that Which? might take this on.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Correction on the number of callboxes /sq. mile in the UK , amended number = approx -0.6/ sq. mile

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Colin G Griffiths says:
1 October 2016

It’s not just in rural areas that need the phone boxes,they are also needed in towns, as there are plenty of older people (me included) that dont have or want a mobile phone. But they might need a phone in an emergency (999),also supposing your mobiles battery is flat, this could be a matter of life or death.

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Lynda Jane says:
1 October 2016

We have never had a mobile ‘phone: we make very few calls so, when they were first introduced and were just ‘phones, we didn’t see the point of one. We have a tablet, laptop and desktop for Internet use, so still don’t need one but, occasionally, we need to make a call when away from home and so a payphone of some sort is invaluable – even the inflated prices charged for the odd calls from hotels is cheaper than a mobile contract. From experience here in Swaledale (and, no doubt, other Yorkshire and Durham dales), we know that mobile reception can be very poor. A friend, who lived until recently out in Swaledale, had to travel to the nearest small town to get mobile reception, and plumbers, electricians etc in the area carry two ‘phones, from two different networks, so they have the best chance of reception.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Lynda, I use my mobile very little but at times it is invaluable. For £30 for a basic phone plus £10 for pay-as-you-go calls I’d recommend one for those just-in-case moments.

Profile photo of John Ward
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We certainly need a lot more telephone boxes in rural areas. I see there is quite a queue to use the one in the picture at the top of this Conversation.

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Denis McGeary says:
1 October 2016

BT are proposing to de-commission and remove the phone box at Seathwaite, an isolated village with no Wi-Fi in Cumbria. Many walkers and climbers use the immediate area and, when it is working, the phone is essential in case of emergency. A petition has been started.

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Jimbo says:
1 October 2016

For everyone concerned abut emergency service access, it is worth noting that your mobiles:
1) have cross network access for 999 / 112 calls – ie even if your own signal is non existent, you will be able to piggy back another network (if there is one…) without issue

2) can text to 112 / 999 as well, and often where a voice signal won’t get through, a text will. Albeit you do need to register first.

See http://www.mountainsafety.co.uk/EP-999-or-112-Which-is-Best-aspx for more details.

And to cover a point earlier in the conversation, location data is also sent to the emergency services as part of the call.

I know this doesn’t get around all the issues [of removing phone boxes], but in any event it is certainly worth knowing when dealing with a life threatening situation.

Member
Janet says:
1 October 2016

We have simple mobile phones, but these do not work in many places, including our village on Anglesey. Old fashioned phone-boxes can be a lifeline. Not everyone has a mobile phone and they don’t work everywhere, because of poor signal.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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I hope those posts puts paid to a comment I saw stating -“whats the problem ? most of the UK is covered by mobile reception ” –no its not, and even the mobile companies admit that , they seem to be “overgenerous” in their coloured displays of cell-net coverage ,even the government see that, and I hope they put pressure on BT to slow down removal of street telephone boxes .I would have liked to have seen a comment from an official employee who can speak on behalf of BT. Also I would like to see what progress the many private cell-net companies are doing in relation to expanding cell-net masts across the country .

Profile photo of malcolm r
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I would have hoped Which? would have asked BT to comment duncan. Views from those directly involved are invaluable to these Convos, as we have seen in a few (rare) cases. Maybe Which? do ask, and they choose not to contribute?

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I was in the Surrey Hills a couple of weeks ago and found “No network coverage” on my mobile. Not exactly in the highlands of Scotland or Wales. It’s OK though there’s a red phone box opposite. Just one snag : it’s almost dark and the sign says “This phone does not accept coins. Please use credit/debit card. There then followed a long explanation on how to use it in very small text. I admit I’m no spring chicken and I found it impossible to read. Consequence : I failed to make my call and BT failed to get revenue from me. Hopeless !

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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I remember motorbiking to ,I think, Box Hill from South London , I think you could buy refreshments there, it was quite high up from the surrounding land.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Will they be removing road signs next on the premise that most of us have got satnavs?

Profile photo of wavechange
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Further investigation has confirmed that there is no public phone nearby, but there is a very small post box nearby, though I had forgotten about the latter. Looking at older OS maps I have come to the conclusion that there was probably no public phone within about three miles.

Maybe infrequently used phone boxes would be used more if they provided facilities to charge mobiles.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Wavechange -from October 2014 onward some disused boxes in London were painted green and converted to free mobile phone chargers named Solarboxes . Spectrum Interactive tried out free wi-fi in some boxes in London but they wanted your mobile number +address to use for spam . BT tried this out too long ago in London and elsewhere. Why is it that the BBC seems to have a lot of data on BT equipment when checking out facts on the web but the public dont?

Profile photo of wavechange
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Thanks Duncan. It’s a useful warning.

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Christopher Moyle says:
4 October 2016

I understand the need for phone box’s in rural areas but no company should be forced to provide a loss making service. Even subsadised bus routes fail & do British gas provide gas in remote areas.
There should be some form of subsidy to help but this unlikely with all the cutbacks.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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While I understand your logic Christopher, where does that leave those that live in rural areas or those who cant afford cell-nets phones or in no signal areas ?

Profile photo of wavechange
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Christopher – Are you happy with what Mr Beeching did to our railways?

Profile photo of DerekP
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Chris, I think you have a fair point there. Given that we have privatised the phone industry, expecting BT (or anyone else) to subsidise phone boxes may be unrealistic. In practice any requirement for them to provide “internal” subsidies will just result in them passing these charges on to other groups of customers.

Where call boxes are seen as important items of rural infrastructure, then it might make sense for truly local authorities, like local or parish councils to subsidise their continued presence. That might be a particularly import choice where they are needed for the purpose of contacting local mountain rescue teams, etc.

To (partly) answer Duncan’s points, anyone who cannot afford a mobile phone probably won’t be able to afford to make much use of payphones either. A basic mobile phone costs about £10 to buy – and can be cheap to run if you choose your PAYG tariff wisely. I accept that that won’t help in areas where there is no mobile signal thought 🙁

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Derek , tried living on £71 /week ? -thats all in ,and you must be over 25 , teenagers no longer get housing benefit and have to rely on their parents or become homeless living on a park bench or if London trying to sleep between the spikes put there to stop the homeless “cluttering up ” London and creating a bad impression to tourists. Or how about “work experience ” ie- slave labour – working for no money from your employer .

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Subsidising little used loss-making phone boxes should, in my view, be a social responsibility paid for out of taxation, not by a commercial company.

I’m not sure where Dr Beeching figures in this but there is a parallel. The rural rail routes were developed at a time when they were the only form of longer-distance transport. They superceded in some cases canals, but were themsleves superceded by roads, and the newer technology of motorised public and private transport.

Public phone boxes suffer through the newer technology of mobile phones.

We cannot preserve all old technologies when they have passed their general usefulness, without subsidy or providing other forms of assistance to those who suffer disproportionately.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Chris – Let me start by saying that I have little enthusiasm for nationalised industries but equally it would not be wise to leave the provision of important services to the commercial world. If companies were able to cherry pick customers, those living outside built-up areas might not have electricity, water and sewerage services, or postal deliveries. Cross-subsidy is essential.

I would like to see the government and local councils deciding where phone boxes are needed. Whether there is an adequate mobile signal is certainly an important factor.

Profile photo of DerekP
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Duncan – my point was simply that anyone on £71/week will struggle to either afford the use of payphone or PAYG credit for their mobile.

Nonetheless, the authorities now pretty much expect everyone to have access to a phone. If you only have a mobile, you can at least give them a number to contact you on or call you back on.

And yes, I do have experience of living on benefits. It has been several decades since I did it personally, but I have recent shared experience from people I know.

Profile photo of Eva Groeneveld
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Hi Duncan, good blog. I just saw the issue covered in the Scotsman today (http://www.scotsman.com/business/companies/tech/is-the-number-finally-up-for-hundreds-of-scotland-s-payphones-1-4249555), and I understand there is a campaign underway in Loch Rannoch in Perthshire to save their phone box. A part of the world I know well, so will be following their campaign with interest! Interestingly, it also states that the highest use of pay phones in Scotland was in Glasgow and Edinburgh city centres.

Profile photo of duncan lucas
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Thank you Eva ,I got my information from the website of another Scottish newspaper . Perthshire is a lovely area of countryside pretty unspoiled thats where Highland Spring bottled water comes from that I drink, its also an area where gold can be found ,if you know where to look. My wife lived there for a while when young . As regards Glasgow city centre use of coin-boxes I would guess its because those in parts of the East-End of Glasgow are very poor and cant afford mobiles and also parts of northwest Glasgow and its always been a tradition there that on a Saturday you would go into the city centre to have a look around even if you could not afford to buy , have you tried driving through Argyle street on a Saturday or for that matter Sauchiehall street ? , even in the crowds when walking in Argyle street you were nearly jammed in .

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Wenvonian says:
6 October 2016

There are two Grade 2 listed buildings in our village. The church and the red telephone box.

Member
Carp says:
6 October 2016

The fact that phone boxes are little-used is largely BT’s own fault. The minimum charge of 60p comprises a connection charge of 40p plus 20p for talk time. That 20p buys 30 minutes of talk time to a land line. This works out at 0.667p a minute which sounds quite reasonable. However, try making a call from a BT phone box to a mobile phone. Can you guess how much talk time you get then? It is only 19 seconds, so the cost is 95 times as much. I would expect to pay 2 or 3 times as much but 95 times is unjustified and unreasonable. I have complained to Ofcom and Trading Standards but both have sided with BT and refused to take any action. It is time for BT to move into the 21st century and recognise that a lot of the calls people want to make nowadays are to mobile phones so it should stop pricing people out of its phone boxes.

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Its pricing me out of using my landline to call mobile numbers Carp ,even if there is a reduction for BT customers.

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No ! Public Payphones are an integral part of our society, don’t get complacent by thinking that mobiles and smartphone have overtaken everything else, that they are all the rage! There are still people that cannot afford mobile phones, there are still people who do not wish to have, operate or own mobile phones. Many elderly people don’t have any inclination to use a mobile phone. Payphones are a must for the sake of the people who need to know that they have a payphone at the end of the street if they have an emergency or they need to contact a relative quickly. Don’t be so selfish, keep the payphone!

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While it is true that the current elderly generation are, overall, disinclined to own or use mobile phones I see that this is changing quite rapidly, especially in the 65-80 bracket. And presumably that cohort will as they advance further in years still wish to keep in touch and carry out more sophisticated activities using smart phones. But, as SB says, that should not be used as an excuse to abandon the public payphone service, both as a lifeline for isolated places and for emergency use when nothing else is available.

Isn’t there something macabrely ironical about a village that replaces the public payphone with a defibrillator in the kiosk? Surely better for the parish council to pay for the continuation of the payphone facility. Have a defibrillator as well by all means but if you can’t call an ambulance there is a limit to what first aid can do.

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Brilliant idea replacing a payphone with a defibrillator. Everyone knows exactly how to use them, and there is absolutely no chance of the person dying before the thing is used. The mind boggles at the thought.

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Alfa – You might like this piece of news: An article in today’s Eastern Daily Press [the journal that keeps Norfolk separate from the rest of society] reports that community responders are appealing for the return of a community-access defibrilator that was attached to the wall of the police station at Wells-next-the-Sea and which has gone missing, presumed stolen. The coordinator of the local voluntary group that looks after these things said “They are available to all without exception. They require no training to use and are proven life savers“.

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I dread to think what those that stole it are going to use it on . The electrical pressure applied to somebody not requiring their heart to start beating again could cause a normal persons heart to malfunction by causing irregular heart beat or death. Also in somebody who is liable to a stroke it could cause a massive one , it doesnt bear thinking about..

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The NHS is short of cash……………………

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I wouldnt disagree with that statement malcolm , if said in good faith.

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I stand corrected as not having seen one close up, I didn’t think I would know how to use a defibrillator.

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The modern defibrillators intended for use by the general public have simple instructions displayed on their screen. I did a first aid course where the use was demonstrated and one of the charities I work for has had a defibrillator for years.

To avoid vandalism or interference, defibrillators in public places require a code number. I believe that you have to call 999 or 112 and quote the number on the box and the operator will give the relevant code. It must be handy being in a phone box with a defibrillator but unable to use it because no phone is available. 🙁

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Wavechange it worries me you have to call 999/112 for an activation code for defibrillators that are available to the public ,I tried getting info on it with varied results so I tried the Scottish Government -Edinburgh who are subsidizing a roll out ( 2014 ) of them at a cost of £600,000 . Believe it or not the people at the other end couldnt answer me but the person i ended up talking to seemed incredulous of it , he took my telephone number and will ring me back.

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Some further information about the missing defibrillator in Wells-next-the -Sea. has come to light. Apparently there was incident in a nearby village where the unit was required so an off-duty nurse took the defibrillator to the scene and used it until the paramedics turned up in the ambulance. The nurse had not managed to return the unit to its location by the time its absence was reported. So not stolen, then – just missing awaiting return.

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Agree phone boxes should be kept for the foreseeable future especially in poor mobile signal areas. Mobile signals need to be foolproof before the boxes are removed!

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Dennis L. says:
22 October 2016

In areas where the mobile phone signal is weak, say in isolated mountainous villages, the phone boxes should be retained and upgraded to become wi-fi hotspots. This should be relatively easy and cheap as the infrastructure is already there. Lack of a mobile signal would then be less disruptive.

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Dennis – BT has already thought of that and has(or had ) telephone boxes in London that did just that.

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Yes, but it’s not in London that we need them. Why won’t BT do it in areas of poor mobile phone reception?

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I checked up Carp but cant find any in rural locations .