FOUR Borders phone boxes will be removed despite a renewed plea to keep them for emergencies following recent storms.

Storms Isha and Jocelyn resulted in power cuts and mobile outages with strong winds sweeping across the region in January.

This week BT confirmed that it would remove phone boxes from Walkerburn, Clovenfords, Ettrickbridge and St Mary’s Loch.

Tweeddale East councillor Julie Pirone, Scottish Borders Council’s (SBC) executive member for emergency planning, wrote to communications regulator Ofcom Scotland to complain about the decision.

Ms Pirone said: “I am sorely disappointed that BT doesn’t want to take into account the views of its customers and cares nothing for the communities it is supposed to be serving.

“While I accept that we all use modern communications such as mobile phones, these do not work in power cuts, they do not allow for emergency calls, they are just dead.

“There are no alternative communications.

“All our phone masts emergency generators have been removed so that in the event of a power cut these fail.

“The EE network in Innerleithen is still experiencing issues after the storms.”

She added: “I would hate for the universal provider of communications to be the company which abandons communities in times of great need, as we have just experienced in recent storms.”

On the Walkerburn box, in a letter to SBC, BT’s Jonny Bunt said: “I have reviewed call data for this box which has made eight calls since the start of 2021.

“None of these calls were to the emergency services or a power company/power cut reporting service.

“Unfortunately it is not feasible to maintain a call box which is used so infrequently.”

He said that he was “satisfied that this call box meets Ofcom’s removal criteria”.

Similar figures for Clovenfords’ box showed seven calls since the start of 2021. None of these calls were to the emergency services or a helpline, and no calls were made during November 2021 when Storm Arwen hit the UK.

Mr Bunt added: “We understand the importance of resilience, particularly in rural areas.”

“Mobile phones can make emergency calls on any network (if any network is available) and communication providers (including BT) are required to provide back-up power solutions (where necessary) to ensure vulnerable customers can use their landline in the event of a power cut.”

A BT spokesperson added: “We consulted with Scottish Borders Council on plans to remove more than 30 redundant payphones in the area as part of our wider programme to remove underused payphones across the UK.

“These removals are being carried out in line with Ofcom’s latest guidance.

“With the vast majority of people now using mobile phones, it’s led to a huge drop in the number of calls made from payphones.

“At the same time, mobile coverage has improved significantly in recent years due to investment in masts and the Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme.

“In an emergency, anyone with a mobile phone can make a 999 call as long as there’s at least one mobile network present, regardless of which operator that is.

“Today, 98 per cent of UK roads have mobile coverage from at least one network, according to Ofcom.

“We’d urge any communities that would still like to retain their local red kiosk to take it on for £1 through our Adopt a Kiosk scheme.”