Locals in the Highlands are fighting back to try and save 55 payphones under threat of removal by BT.
Communities want to ‘adopt’ a further six – but that still means 59 from an original hit list of 110 will end up being removed.
BT cites a 90% decline in the use of payphones over the past decade, along with the availability of 3G or 4G coverage and network roaming for mobile phones, as reasons for their withdrawal.
Highland Council has carried out a consultation which has pinpointed 163 objections to the removal of 55 payphones, and highlighted those where there were no objections.
Payphones to be adopted under BT’s £1 adopt-a-kiosk scheme are at Glenferness, Nairn; Alcaig, Dingwall; Glenfinnan Station Museum; Kiltarlity; Dundonnell, Garve; and Lochbroom.
The 55 to be saved are in Fort Augustus, Knockfarrel and Mill Street, Dingwall; Ardross, Milnafua, Novar Road, Kirkside and Westford in Alness; Spean Bridge, Gairlochy, Roy Bridge, Achnasheen, Laide, Tomich, Lewiston, Gorthleck, Errogie, Hilton community centre, Balloan Road Inverness, Great North Road Muir of Ord, Carrbridge, Glenmore Lodge Aviemore, High Street Grantown-on-Spey, Applecross,Laggan, Ralia, Drumbeg, Lochinver, Stromeferry, Killlian, Armadale, Fraser Park Nairn, Morar, Lochailort, Invergarry, Coldbackie Lairg, Dunnet,Strathkanaird, Elphin, Kinlochleven, Milton, Arabella, Durness, Kilchoan, Garve, Achanalt, Contin, and Strathconon.
Objections to removing them include their importance to walkers and tourists, unreliable landlines and poor mobile coverage, risk to public safety in an emergency and the importance of a phone box to elderly residents and those without mobile phones.
More than 20 objections were lodged by the Tomich Residents Association against the removal of their phone box at the Tomich Hotel.
Hotel owner Peter Small said: “The phone box has been there since 1937, and we still have the original letter about its installation, so there are sentimental reasons for not wanting to see it go.
“But there are practical reasons also.
“The mobile coverage here is very poor, you might get something if the wind is in the right direction.
“We were concerned that if there’s an emergency locally and the cafe or hotel is closed there would be no way of summoning the emergency services.”
Highland Council will submit the findings to BT and the department for culture, media and sport by November 13, and they will be published on the council website.
If BT disagrees with any of the findings, they will ask to review them with the council, and Ofcom will make a final decision.
A BT spokesman said: “We consider a number of factors before consulting on the removal of payphones, including whether others are available nearby and usage.
“The need to provide payphones for use in emergency situations is also diminishing all the time, with at least 98% of the UK having either 3G or 4G coverage.
“As long as there is network coverage, it’s now possible to call the emergency services, even when there is no credit or no coverage from your own mobile provider.”