From BT Journal Vol 8 Number 1
'Boxing' to win the payphone battle
British Telecom's payphones modernisation programme is showing results throughout the UK. The new phones have improved features and facilities and customers are making more use of them. But vandalism remains a problem and schemes such as Copacard - highlighted in the last issue of the British Telecom Journal and aimed at fostering relationships between community police and local schoolchildren - and a national car sticker campaign have been devised to help. This article looks at payphone progress to date.
British Telecom has ordered 25,000 new-style electronic telephones as part of the final stage in its programme to modernise the UK's 77,000 public payphones.
The contracts for new telephones, worth a total of £23 million, are for:
• 15,000 electronic payphones which accept all coins from 2p to £1, return unused coins at the end of a call and automatically report their own faults, ordered from Plessey Telecommunications Products Ltd of Liverpool;
• 10,000 Cardphones which operate on holographically encoded pre-paid Phonecards, from Landis & Gyr of North Acton, London.
More than £80 million has been invested so far in British Telecom's £160 million payphone
modernisation programme. The more reliable telephones and modern housings are already boosting payphone usage and cutting down vandalism and theft.
An 18-month programme to convert most of London's 10,800 public telephone kiosks to the new style housings has also started. The equipment in all these kiosks has already been replaced with modern electronic telephones.
A review of payphone progress to date shows that the number of Britain's public payphones has increased from 76,616 last year to 77,370 and that 10,000 new-style housings are now in use, giving much easier access for disabled customers and wheelchair users.
A total of 56,000 all-electronic payphones have been installed and the trend towards 'cashless' telephones has been boosted by the installation of 6,000 public Cardphones with Phonecards now available from 8,000 outlets.
A programme to convert 3,100 kiosks on Tyneside and Teesside to new-style housings has been completed and elsewhere in the country two new cashless calling methods have been successfully launched. In Bristol, AccountCall allows customers to have the cost of calls charged to their home or office telephone account, and, in London, CreditCall operates on a customer's own credit card or charge card on special telephones at Heathrow Airport and British Rail's Waterloo station.
Payphones using Phonecards have proved to be a huge success in improving the quality of service. Because they do not have cash boxes the attraction for thieves is removed and British Telecom plans to increase the numbers installed particularly in major towns and cities.
Vandalism, however, remains a major concern and the company is actively pursuing new initiatives through police forces, schools and local communities to help to eliminate the problem.
Complementing the modernisation programme, all existing electronic payphones and Cardphones are being modified to provide operator access for assistance and transfer charge calls when coin payphones are in the emergency call-only mode because of fault or vandalism.
They will also reduce the intrusion of the operator-alert tone which alerts staff of attempted transfer-charge frauds and allows payphone calls through the operator to be charged at the appropriate rate.
The majority of Cardphones have already been modified to allow access to the `100' Operator for reverse charge and British Telecom credit card calls. The modifications will be completed throughout the country during the year
The trend towards 'cashless' telephones is growing and in a joint exercise between British Telecom and the Salvation Army, London's young teenage runaways were given the chance to make a free phone call home using the new Phonecard kiosks
British Telecom has welcomed a decision by the Department of the Environment to list a further 400 telephone kiosks as being of special architectural and historic interest.
The Department of the Environment and British Telecom are to work with English Heritage to identify a representative sample of post-1939 kiosks worthy of preservation.
The extension follows the Department of the Environment's recent decision that listing can be given to buildings 30 years old and more. Previously only pre-1939 buildings qualified for listing.
To qualify for listing, the 400 extra boxes will have to be judged to enhance their surroundings or be sited near listed buildings or in attractive town and country locations. See article on payphone modernisation on page 60.
Typical of the many efforts to beat the problem of payphone vandalism is a joint scheme between Merseyside Police and British Telecom's Liverpool District.
Three payphones have been installed in police stations in areas which have suffered from extensive vandalism. The trial at police stations in Wavertree Road, Belle Vale and Kirkby will last for 12 months and may then be extended to other areas. Meanwhile, in Speke and Halewood, payphones are to be moved to sites outside and within police stations.
The initiatives complement a£3 million modernisation programme for payphones in the Liverpool District and the popular education package which uses the 'PC Payphone' character.
The aim of the schemes is to make working payphones available 24-hours a day to the community in areas of high vandalism.
By putting payphones under the protection of the local police station, British Telecom hopes to make them less vulnerable to vandals and at the same time the move will increase the number of payphones available to residents of the areas.
On the line
British Rail has signed a contract with BT Mobile Communications to install 200 trainphones using the Cellnet cellular system on their Intercity train services
BR plan to install the phones, which use BTs familiar green Phonecard system, on intercity routes over the next 2 years.
BT have already supplied 9 system 4 train phones to BR on intercity pulman trains serving London Liverpool Manchester Leeds Newcastle and Blackpool, and these will be converted from cash to Phonecard payment.
The sale of Phonecards from train buffet cars is currently being trialled on some intercity routes, and it is hoped that this will become a national service
1986 Customer Leaflet
A £160 million campaign to improve the public payphone service is well under way. We have now installed new equipment in over half of out 77,000 boxes. Kiosks are also being modernised with 2500 already installed. We have introduced at many locations Phonecard cashless payphones which are less prone to vandalism and theft, in addition to providing our customers with a convenient way of calling