Frustration over payphone

The telephone box in Craster.
The telephone box in Craster.

Long-delayed repairs to a payphone in a north Northumberland coastal village without any mobile phone coverage, which has frustrated residents, are finally set to start this week. Repairs to a north Northumberland village’s payphone, which has been out of action for three months, were finally due to start yesterday.

BT was made aware of the issue in Craster in January, but despite regular contact from residents and parish councillors, work is only just starting now.

It is of particular concern for the village because there is no mobile phone coverage and a significant number of the properties are holiday homes, meaning it may be difficult to find a phone in an emergency.

BT has now apologised for the delay, blaming heavy workloads following the adverse weather and the discovery of asbestos on site.

The issue came to light when resident Marion Gallon had to let an Arriva bus driver into her home to phone for help when his bus became stranded on the hill outside Lifeboat House in the snow.

It was reported towards the end of January, but heavy workload on the part of BT meant that itwasn’t surveyed until February, when it was discovered that an underground cable fault was behind the issue. Then the presence of asbestos led to further delays.

A BT spokeswoman said: “We are very sorry for delays to the repair of the payphone in Craster.

“Heavy workloads caused by bad weather in the north of England have meant we have not been able to complete repairs as quickly as we would have liked.

“Work to restore service requires the replacement of an underground cable and unfortunately this work has been further delayed by the discovery of asbestos in the duct, which prevented engineers from clearing a blockage.

“New plans requiring traffic management have now been agreed and traffic lights have been booked for April 10.

“We will then restore service to the payphone as quickly as possible.”

Parish councillor Elizabeth Pearson said: “Our main worry is that a good half of the houses in the village are holiday lets. If there was an emergency at sea, in the harbour, with a child, there’s no mobile coverage in the village so this is a lifeline.”