BT to remove 20,000 telephone boxes as usage drops 90%

Half of the 40,000 remaining telephone boxes in the UK are to be scrapped, under new British Telecom plans.

Over the next five years, 20,000 of the lesser-used boxes around the country will be sacrificed, BT says.

The company says the phone boxes are still handling 33,000 calls a day. However, around a third of the in-use boxes are never used by the public. Overall usage is down 90% over the last decade.

7,000 of the boxes remaining in service are the iconic red booths. It’s unclear how many of those will be removed.

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BT hopes this will lessen the annual £6 million costs of maintaining the phone boxes. Most of that is likely dedicated to repairing vandalism and damage, while cleaning up rubbish and various human waste.

A BT spokesperson told the BBC: “BT is committed to providing a public payphone service, but with usage declining by over 90% in the last decade, we continue to review and remove payphones which are no longer used.”

In 1992 there were 92,000 phone boxes in the United Kingdom, but usage has been steadily declining since the advent of the mobile phone.

These days, more than half of the remaining 40,000 phone boxes lose money for BT.

Boxed out

Under Ofcom guidelines, BT must consult local communities when removing a box, unless there is another within 400 metres.

“Payphone removals are carried out in strict adherence to Ofcom guidelines and, where appropriate, with the consent of local authorities. Where we receive objections from the local authority, we won’t remove the payphone,” BT said.

In recent times, BT has repurposed some boxes as Wi-Fi hotspots. Local communities are also able to ‘adopt’ them from BT. Some have been turned into mini libraries, art galleries and information centers.

Will you miss your local phone box if BT takes it away? Share your thoughts @TrustedReviews on Twitter.