More than five weeks on, elderly and disabled are still waiting for a phone line

Residents hanging on for phone line

Published on Saturday 30 July 2011 08:00

RESIDENTS left without a phone line for more than a month have slammed a communications giant for “fobbing them off”.

Disgruntled householders at the new 13-bungalow Olaman Walk development, in Peterlee, said they were told by their telephone suppliers they would have landlines installed ready for moving in on June 20.

But more than five weeks on, they are still waiting.

However, after a call from the Mail, BT Open Reach, which fits the lines on behalf of various suppliers, was due to start work immediately, ready for planned connection this Monday.

Residents had told the Mail they had ran up mobile phone bills of up to £50 over the past month after their suppliers told them varying stories ranging from there being no underground phone cables at the Durham Aged Miners-owned site to cables being twisted.

Some of the residents are elderly or disabled and without mobile phones and concerned that they would not be able to phone for help in an emergency.

Gordon Carne, 49, who lives in one of the bungalows with his disabled wife, Sheila, 56, who has spondylosis, a form of osteoarthritis, said: “We have been getting fobbed off and told different stories of why the phones aren’t up and running.

“My wife is disabled, a lot of people in the bungalows are disabled and if anyone collapsed in the night anything could happen.

“A lot of people don’t have mobile phones so how are they supposed to contact the emergency services?

“If an old person dies in the bungalows, it’s going to be tragic.”

Full-time carer Gordon, who has a 16-year-old daughter, Hannah, said he was initially told by BT his line would be fitted on June 21, then July 14 and then July 20, but nothing was ever done.

Neighbour Stephen Miles, 53, is a full-time carer for wife Carol, 52, who suffers with arthritis in both knees and has a pacemaker fitted.

Stephen said: “We moved in on June 20 and Sky said it would take three days to install the phone lines.

“We got an update on July 13 and they cancelled.

“On July 22 they said they’d do it again and then they said it’s going to be August 15.

“I’ve spent about £40 on my mobile and Sky just keep passing the buck.”

A BT Open Reach spokeswoman said the delay was due to a line plant shortage in the area.

She said to provide lines the company is having to complete 1,800ft of cabling and 750ft of new duct to link up with the nearest spare cable route.

The firm had to plan, contract and then agree this work with Durham County Council.

The spokeswoman said: “We apologise to residents on Olaman Walk for the delay in the provision to their phone lines.

“All engineering work should be complete by Monday with work commencing today.”