The old curmudgeons at BT are planning to scrap over half of the UK’s remaining phone boxes. The cull will take place over the next five years.
The purge will leave just 20,000 working phone boxes in the country. Down from a high of 92,000 in 1992. The scrapping of the kiosks follows the binning of the Yellow Pages.
Not exactly a bolt from the blue
To be honest no one can be surprised at the news. I can’t remember the last time I used a pay phone.
And let’s face it. The less civilised among us delight in using them as a toilet.
But some people do still use them for making calls. 33,000 every day.
But a third of all phone boxes stand idle. And more than half lose money every year.
BT point out traditional phone boxes are expensive to maintain. Many are repeatedly vandalised. Glass is smashed and graffiti daubed.
BT spend £6million a year on repairs. They have obviously had enough of this blemish on their balance sheet.
Why don’t we use phone boxes anymore?
Over 90% of people in the UK have a mobile phone. Well over 90% of the country has 3G or 4G mobile internet coverage. No wonder the number of calls from phone boxes is dropping by 20% every year.
But phone boxes do still have a role to play. Albeit a minor one.
Keep our red phone boxes
After all people are still using them. The elderly are the main users. Or those who can’t afford a mobile phone. And they serve a valuable role in rural areas with dodgy mobile reception.
They are also a life saver when phone battery goes flat.
All of which is a little tenuous but nevertheless we still need phone boxes.
And I’ve missed out the most important reason to keep some phone boxes. They are a traditional part of village life. Who doesn’t enjoy the sight of a classic red phone box on a village green?
To their credit BT do acknowledge this. And they do consult with local authorities when planning to scrap a kiosk.
If objections are received BT will leave the phone box in place.
Life in the old dog yet
Even phone boxes destined for the scrapheap can have a new lease of life. BT run an Adopt a Kiosk scheme.
Local communities can buy their phone box for a pound. They can then repurpose the kiosk.
And some of the ideas are brilliant.
Libraries, information centres, and art galleries. Old telephone kiosks house them all.
Out with the old in with the new
Red phone boxes may soon be a thing of the past. But newer and better versions are here.
BT are installing high-tech InLinkUK kiosks in cities throughout the UK.
The futuristic hubs provide ultra-fast Wi-Fi, free phone calls, smartphone charging points and touchscreen information and directions.
But they’re not red. They don’t even have doors. But I suppose we all have to move on.