Following pressure from Westminster Labour urging BT to take extra steps to maintain and clean red phone boxes in the West End, BT have agreed to do more to ensure phone boxes are maintained to a better standard.
In late April, West End Councillor Pancho Lewis and Labour’s spokesperson for the Environment Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg wrote the following letter to BT:
“We are writing to put on record our concern about London’s red phone boxes.
These are often left in a state of utter disrepair and in the most filthy and dirty of conditions. Peer into a phone box in central London and you will invariably find these filled with piles of rubbish, stinking of urine, and used as a dumping ground for needles and other drug paraphernalia.
Repeated attempts by residents urging BT to carry out its duty to ensure phone boxes are cleaned up on a regular basis have fallen on deaf ears.
Residents in the West End, for example, have repeatedly asked the phone boxes on the north side of Piccadilly, between the Albany and Sackville Street, to be maintained properly. As you can see from the attached pictures, not only are these phone boxes in an appalling condition, they serve no useful purpose. Piccadilly is at the heart of London and it is an absolute disgrace that you have allowed these phone boxes to deteriorate so badly for so long. It is the same state of affairs at the bottom of Wardour Street, pictured below, and elsewhere in the West End.
This state of affairs is unacceptable. London deserves better.
We demand that action is taken now and a regular maintenance and cleaning system put in place so phone boxes are clean. All options should be considered, including removing phone boxes where there isn’t regular cleaning and maintenance.
We look forward to receiving your response and outline of the action you intend to take.”
The Councillors have now received the following response:
“I have investigated the concerns raised in your recent letter.
Unfortunately, we are seeing increased levels in vandalism and other forms of anti-social behaviour on UK streets and we have been investing more each year to maintain and upgrade our payphone service. BT, unlike other payphone providers, has a universal service obligation (a legal requirement managed by Ofcom) to provide service, however we have been working with Councils, including Westminster, in a programme of significant removals of traditional payphones replaced with a smaller number of our next generation payphone service (InLinkUK). Normally we replace two traditional payphones for each InLink unit we install, but in discussions with Westminster City Council we have offered to remove four for every InLink because of the high density of payphones in the area.
In the short term though we have immediately put in place a fortnightly cleaning schedule for more than 200 BT payphones in Westminster, particularly within the West End area, and a member of our operations team will be monitoring the effectiveness.”
Councillors Lewis and Dimoldenberg both responded to BT with the following comments:
“We’re pleased that BT have recognised the importance of cleaning phone boxes on a regular basis. However, we think once every two weeks is simply not enough, and have asked they do so at least once a week.
“And whilst cleaning phone boxes more regularly is important, ultimately they need to remove many of the phone boxes and stop coming up with excuses – many simply don’t serve a purpose anymore and are an eyesore. We’ll continue to press them to remove phone boxes which are simply not fit for purpose for the modern age.”