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Last Updated: Friday, 3 September, 2004, 23:46 GMT 00:46 UK
Mobiles kill off more phone boxes
Thousands of loss-making telephone boxes are to face the axe as mobile phone use soars in the UK, British Telecom has announced.

Up to one in five phone boxes could be removed, particularly in rural areas.

But BT said it would keep many rural pay phones if there were no others within reasonable walking distance.

The company has said its policy was "driven by a complete culture change in communications" which had seen a huge rise in mobile phone ownership.

Residents in Edenbridge, Kent, where mobile phone reception is said to be "unreliable", told BBC Radio 4's programme the impact would be most felt by vulnerable people such as the elderly.

Local MP Sir John Stanley, who is fighting the removal of payphones in the area, said BT's stance was a nationwide issue.


He said he did not want to see more local community services lost, as was happening with sub-post offices.

BT said it already uses the money it makes on profitable phone boxes to subsidise loss-making payphones in areas like Edenbridge.

In the last three years calls from public phone boxes have nearly halved, and the cost of maintaining and repairing them is a financial burden, added BT.

Last month residents in Edenbridge were told they could keep four under-threat phone boxes if they paid nearly 3,000.

The council is currently in consultation with BT over the future of the town's public pay phones.

The company said in each case there was an alternative pay phone within a reasonable distance, meaning 200 to 400m.

Local residents and councillors want to salvage the phone by the Women's Institute Hall because the building is used as an emergency meeting point and has no internal phone.

BT said it would cost the town 745 to keep that particular phone box.

The BBC's Rachel Ellison
"Pay phones are seen as an essential public service"

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