Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Anger as Payphone Boxes Are Cut Off

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Anger as Payphone Boxes Are Cut Off

Article excerpt

Byline: By Neil McKay

Communities all over the North face losing their public payphones as BT prepares to axe hundreds of kiosks.

People living in rural areas in particular are outraged at plans to axe 678 payphone kiosks across the region.

The increasing popularity of the mobile phone, is leading to the disappearance of the once- familiar payphone box.

BT say the vast majority now run at a loss, but people living in the country argue that many kiosks ear-marked for removal are potential life-savers, especially in areas where mobile signals are unobtainable.

John Davidson, chairman of Wooler Parish Council, where eight payphones are ear-marked for the axe, said: "BT should look at the social issues as well as from a business point of view.

"There are phone boxes in rural areas such as Kirknewton and Middleton Hall where mobile phone signals are less than

reliable. And BT ought to consider that older people just cannot or will not use mobile phones. Not everybody is abreast of new technology."

Alan Sambrook, leader of Castle Morpeth Borough Council, where 23 payphones are ear-marked for removal, including rural locations such as Belsay, Hartburn and Meldon, said he was "very concerned" about the proposals and would be consulting with parish and local councillors.

He added: "I can understand BT have to look at loss-making kiosks, and mobile phones are now commonplace, but some of these kiosks ear-marked for closure are in areas where mobile phone signals are often infrequent or unreliable. We will be consulting with local members and parish councils before making our representations to BT."

BT has announced a 42-day consultation period over the closure programme.

Castle Morpeth borough councillor Ernie Coe, from Hartburn, west of Morpeth, where it is proposed to axe the kiosk in his village and another in nearby Middleton, said: "I think somebody at BT has stuck a pin in areas where they want to remove these phone boxes. …

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