In Brief

BT to scrap half of phone boxes after 90% drop in usage

The rise in mobile phones has cut the number of calls from a peak of 92,000 to just 20,000

Phone boxes are set to take another step towards obsoletion as BT announced plans to scrap half of the UK's 40,000 remaining public telephone booths because of a 90 per cent drop in usage over the past decade.

The rise of mobile phones since the turn of the century has seen the number of calls made from high street phone boxes drop by 20 per cent year-on-year. Some 33,000 calls a day still originate from public phone boxes but about a third of call boxes are used only once a month and many never at all. Even those which are used regularly rarely earn enough money to cover running costs.

With so many disused phone boxes, the cost of cleaning, replacing broken glass panels, repairing vandalised receivers and removing graffiti and rubbish has also risen steadily, to about £6m a year.

At peak usage, there were around 92,000 public phone boxes in Britain. Many of those which will survive the cull will be the traditional red-painted cast iron version, 2,400 of which are Grade II listed buildings and regularly attract tourists.

According to The Guardian, BT is encouraging communities to reprieve some of those now condemned by paying to adopt them "so that they might join the 4,300 that have found new lives as tiny libraries, art centres, sites for lifesaving defibrillation equipment and, as in a particularly thrilling Archers plot line, local information points".

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