Thieves leave more than 100 Norfolk villagers without phone lines

More than 100 households were left without a telephone line after a kilometre of copper cabling was damaged in an attempted theft.

Villagers living in and around Old Buckenham, near Attleborough, were forced to rely on mobile phones for days following the vandalism on July 11.

Although most homes have now been reconnected, a handful still remain without a land line, raising concerns over the speed in which BT has moved to complete the repairs.

The telecoms provider said it hoped to have restored all services by yesterday and apologised for the time it had taken.

Doug Baker, 84, of Old Post Office Terrace, was without a line on and off until Tuesday. His broadband connection was also temporarily down.

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'There a lot of single old people who live here and rely on their land line; they don't understand mobile phones,' he said.

'I'm a hospital patient and I have to ring up to get various medicines and, of course, I was stuck. So I was using my mobile, which is on pay as you go, and I was putting �20 notes on it like there was no tomorrow.'

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Sally Bishop, landlady of the Ox and Plough pub, on The Green, said she was without a land line for three days, but her business was able to continue as normal thanks to all calls being diverted through her mobile phone.

She added: 'I think because we're a business they got us back on quicker. But we've heard a lot of people moaning. It needs to be brought to people's attention because there are still people without their phones and there's a lot of elderly people in the village who need them.'

District councillor Adrian Joel, who represents the rural village, condemned the act of the would-be thieves, but criticised the way BT had handled some of the residents' concerns.

'People have been coming to me asking me to help them. Some have written to the MP and even David Cameron. They cannot get through to anyone,' he said.

'My concern is for the people who still have no telephones. It is a lifeline for people and nothing seems to be happening. It is ever so frustrating.'

A spokesman for BT said just over 100 customers had been affected and about 10 were still waiting to be reconnected.

He added: 'Our priority is always to restore services as quickly as we can, which is what we have tried to do in this case.

'We do, however, apologise for the fact this has taken longer than we would have hoped or expected in the case of a small number of customers, for which we are very sorry.

'BT takes the issue of network security extremely seriously and is actively taking various measures to tackle this kind of crime, working closely with the police and other organisations that are similarly affected.'

About 1,000 metres of copper cabling, cut into sections, was found dumped in Ragmere Road, Old Buckenham, in the early hours of July 11.

The offenders had gained access to nearby BT inspection pits between midnight and 2am. No one has yet been arrested for the damage.

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