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The BBC's Karen Bowerman
"It is change-over day"
 real 28k

Saturday, 22 April, 2000, 16:50 GMT 17:50 UK
One in three fails number change challenge
Phone boxes
Many Londoners did not know the new numbers
One in three callers in London failed to use new eight-digit numbers when they made telephone calls in the city on the first day of the big numbers changeover, say organisers.

They did so despite massive publicity about the changes, which took effect from 0100 BST on Saturday.

Between 1000 BST and 1100 BST on Saturday, hundreds of people tried to dial using the old seven-digit numbers and received a recorded announcement telling them how to dial correctly.

Code areas and numbers
London: old code - 0171; new code - 020+7
London: old code - 0181; new code - 020+8
Portsmouth: old code - 01705; new code - 023+92
Southampton: old code - 01703; new code - 023+80
Coventry: old code - 01203; new code - 024+76
Cardiff: old code - 01222; new code - 029+20
Northern Ireland: old code - 01232 etc; new code - 028+various
The figure was revealed after a survey showed millions of people did not know their new phone number.

Six areas of the UK, including London, have been switched over to new national dialling codes, with additional digits before the main telephone numbers.

The change was called the Big Number Campaign and was organised by all the telephone companies.

A spokeswoman for the Big Number Campaign said: "One in three callers in London dialled the old numbers during the peak time on Saturday and went through to an announcement.

"Since then we think people have learnt very quickly and that the levels have dropped."

Widespread ignorance

Despite spending 20m, the Big Number Campaign has been accused of failing to get the message across.

The British Market Research Bureau has found in the number change areas, 63% did not know their new local number and 59% did not know their new national number after the switch at 0100BST.

Campaign manager Howard Sandom said: "We are pretty much where we thought we would be. We knew people would not bother to take it all in until the last minute."

In Cardiff, Coventry, Northern Ireland, Portsmouth, Southampton and London, old numbers have been stretched by an extra one or two digits.

In London, the change will create capacity for another 64 million numbers.

Helpline support

Now, anyone who calls an old local number in London, Portsmouth, Southampton, Coventry, Cardiff and Northern Ireland will hear a voice recording giving instructions on the new number.

Advertising poster
Despite a big campaign, many people are unaware of the number change
For callers dialling national numbers, old codes and new codes will run in parallel for between four and six months.

Mr Sandom said he was not worried by the public's lack of awareness, adding that a special helpline had received 10,000 calls in 24 hours.

The campaign gave more than 50 media interviews in two days to advertise its telephone helpline - 0808 2242000 - and website, he added.

Under the new system, numbers for inner and outer London will change from 0171 and 0181 to 0207 and 0208 respectively.

Portsmouth numbers will change to 023 92, Southampton to 023 80, Coventry to 024 76, Cardiff to 029 20 and Northern Ireland will alter to 028 followed by various figures.

On 28 April pagers 01426 will change to 07626, mobiles 0410 will switch to 07710 and 0345 numbers will alter to 08457.

The last major number modification was in 1995 when a "1" was added to all national codes.

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