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1959: UK's first trunk call from a pay phone
The UK's first trunk dialling system from a public call-box has been inaugurated in Bristol today.

It is the start of a countrywide service that will eventually replace the current Button A and Button B pre-payment system.

The Deputy Lord Mayor phoned the Lord Mayor of London, dialling the number himself.

The new streamlined coin phone boxes have slots for 3d, 6d and 1s pieces. Money cannot be put in until the call is answered.

A series of pips indicates when the time paid for is running out and the caller must insert more coins to carry on talking.

Queen launches trunk dialling

Subscriber Trunk Dialling was introduced in the Bristol area last December which meant 18,000 subscribers are now able to make trunk calls without the aid of the operator.

The system was launched by Her Majesty the Queen on 5 December 1958 during a ceremony in which she made a direct long-distance call from Bristol Central Telephone Exchange to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, more than 300 miles (482km) away.

Her call lasted two minutes five seconds and cost 10d (four pence).

This latest move to introduce coin boxes is part of Post Master General Ernest Marples' 35m scheme to modernise the phone system in an effort to popularise use of the telephone.

Mr Marples described the new system as "quite revolutionary" and "good value for money".

However, automatic dialling will inevitably lead to job losses.

The GPO employs 50,000 operators and this number will be halved by 1970, saving an estimated 15m a year.

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Post Master General Ernest Marples demonstrates use of a public phone box
The new direct-dial call boxes will make phone calls cheaper and easier


In Context
The Button A and Button B pay phones, first introduced in 1925, connected callers via an operator on insertion of the call fee.

The caller then pushed Button A to deposit the coins and make the connection. If a call could not be connected for some reason, or if there was no reply, Button B was pushed and all the coins were returned.

In 1976 the last manual exchange in the United Kingdom at Portree in the Isle of Skye closed making the British telephone system fully automatic.

British Telecom took over the running of the phone system from the Post Office in 1981.

Ten years later the government ended the duopoly shared by BT and Mercury Communications that had existed since 1983 and opened up the market to other telecoms companies.

In 1985 BT began on a 160m programme to replace the UK's world famous red phone boxes with blue payphones in aluminium and stainless steel booths.

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