Wed Mar 21, 2018 London

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Editorial comment from Matthew SteeplesOur editor tells it like it is and he rarely minces his words

BT phone home

The future for red telephone boxes


The red telephone box is something that tourists often cite as being symbolic of Britain. Just like the red London bus and the red pillar box, though, these Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed kiosks are sadly disappearing from our streets.


Decaying red telephone boxes are an increasingly common sight throughout Britain
Decaying red telephone boxes are an increasingly common sight throughout Britain
Traditional red "K6" model telephone boxes being removed from Warwick town centre
Traditional red “K6” model telephone boxes being removed from Warwick town centre


Killed by the mobile phone revolution, British Telecom successfully lobbied to remove public telephones as usage has declined dramatically. The company state that calls from payphones have fallen by more than 80% in the last five years and that around 60% of the boxes cost more to maintain than they generate in revenue.


Though, in some remote rural areas, public telephones are essential as mobile signal strength is so poor, the number of BT telephone boxes fell from 92,000 in 2002 to just 51,500 in 2012. An “Adopt A Kiosk” scheme was started by the company in 2008 where decommissioned telephone boxes were sold to communities for just £1.


Villages throughout the land seized this initiative with gusto and some 1,800 kiosks have been saved by this route. Communities have cleverly adapted the boxes and new uses have included as art galleries in miniature, book exchanges and information centres. One village even installed a lifesaving defibrillation machine and another created a one-night-only pub whilst in urban areas, some red telephone boxes have been converted into cash machines.


A red telephone box as a cashpoint
A red telephone box as a cashpoint
A phone box sofa
A phone box sofa
A phone box cocktail bar
A phone box cocktail bar

Of late, however, BT have again upped their efforts to offload the remaining red telephone boxes. It is suggested that though there were around 12,500 left in 2010 in the UK, they would like to get rid of 6,700 of them.


A company named X2 Connect are now taking many of these boxes off BT’s hands and after refurbishment, selling them to private individuals.


At prices starting from £1,950, buyers can acquire a piece of British history. Some telephone kiosks are now used as garden ornaments whilst one has been been turned into a cocktail bar. One has even been adapted to create a sofa.


We hope that the nation turns against this idea. The red telephone box is so symbolic of Britain that it must be preserved. It should remain on our streets and it should remain connected.


X2 Connect:


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