Phone Boxes

Phone Boxes

One of the things we keep a watchful eye on is the state of Colchester’s public phone boxes. Whether they’re working, often they’re not, and whether they’re clean and well maintained. Usually, they’re not.

It’s true that public phone boxes aren’t in as much demand as they used to be and we certainly don’t need as many, particularly when they’re located close together. After all, most people carry a mobile phone and those who don’t usually have ready access to a landline at home or at work. However, not everyone does, particularly the most vulnerable. That’s why access to a network of working public phone boxes remains important.

Our First Survey

Following comments from some of our members in November 2018 we undertook our first detailed survey. We found 41 boxes and compiled a detailed report. We checked whether the kiosks actually had a phone, several didn’t and one was completely devoid of anything at all. In kiosks with a phone, we checked whether that phone was working. We checked damage to kiosks; the listed red box at East Bay had 46 panes of glass missing! We commented on general cleanliness, graffiti, fly posting, torn advertisements etc.

Our findings were shared with BT, including the disheartening news that only 13 out of the 41 checked phone kiosks were fully operational.

BT’s response was rapid and a team of engineers was despatched within a matter of days to fix the faults and clean the kiosks.

It was a great lesson in effective joint working and set a pattern for future co-operation.

Ongoing Surveys

Since our initial survey we’ve continued to keep our eyes and ears open in and around Colchester’s public phone boxes. Further surveys have been carried out and our findings shared with BT who continue to deploy engineers to fix the problems on issues we identify.

With each subsequent survey we’ve found the overall number of kiosks has fallen. BT has removed boxes where minimal calls have been made but not without a good deal of thought and public notification. At the last count in December 2022 there were 31 compared to those checked previously. That’s hardly surprising given the still growing expansion of mobile phones, email and social media. One kiosk has been re-purposed and now houses a defibrillator.

We’re determined to continue with our regular surveys and to keep flagging to BT when we find issues that it needs to sort. After all, a public call box is no use whatsoever if the public can’t make a call from it.

Can you help keep our phone boxes in good order?

To report a fault or damage to a BT Payphone please email BT with the telephone number and location of the box, together with the nature of the fault and your contact details. Send your email to: