Mountain rescue team concerned about removal of phone boxes in remote areas of Northumberland

The public phonebox at Barrowburn.
The public phonebox at Barrowburn.

A total of 14 BT phone boxes in remote areas of the Northumberland National Park and surrounding areas are under threat of being removed.

The Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team (NNPMRT) is strongly against the removal of any public phone box where there is little or no mobile coverage.

This includes the Upper Coquet Valley – Alwinton and Barrowburn – as the phone boxes could be the only way of contacting emergency services.

A statement from NNPMRT said: ‘Given the nature of occupations (agricultural/commuting etc) and type of residence (holiday homes) in the area, one cannot rely on finding an occupied house with a landline when one is needed.

‘We are aware that certain phone boxes, such as those at Barrowburn and Ingram in particular, are used by groups doing their Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE) to check in with their leaders or are part of safety briefings given to such groups as locations where they would be able to make emergency calls should they need to. The absence of them would therefore reduce the safety of young people on such expeditions.

‘We believe that it is not good enough for BT to say that the majority of the country is covered by 3G and 4G. They need to ensure that coverage is achieved in the areas these phone boxes are located prior to their removal.

‘BT also needs to be aware that there are still people who use these areas for leisure who do not have a mobile phone. The phone boxes are a major lifeline to such people in the event of an emergency and until BT can guarantee mobile coverage, they should not remove these boxes regardless of past usage.’

In September, Northumberland County Council launched a public consultation on behalf of BT on the possible removal of 171 ‘little-used’ payphones across Northumberland. The telecoms company says that payphones will remain in situ where objections are received.

Objections have been lodged for 51 of those phones, which will be passed onto BT, leaving 120 which are set to be removed.