CAMPAIGNERS have warned BT that plans to save money by removing the UK’s highest telephone box could cost lives.
The phone box at the skiing base station on Cairn Gorm sits at 2,150ft in an area busy year-round with visitors.
The mountain itself is 4,084ft and the area regularly experiences some of the highest wind speeds and lowest temperatures in the UK.
Workers on the mountain were shocked to discover the plan to remove the phone only when a ranger entered the box and saw a note from BT saying it was to be scrapped.
Mobile phone reception can be extremely poor and hillwalkers claim the presence of the phone box could make the difference between life and death.
Others are upset simply because the box, located above the ski resort’s Coire Cas car park, has become a popular tourist attraction in its own right.
The campaign comes just weeks after BT announced they would be removing thousands of telephone boxes from across Scotland. It emerged earlier in the week that 700 phone boxes were not used to make a single call last year.
But the firm admits that maintaining each box costs only about £310 a year.
Leading Scottish mountain sports website, Winterhighland Ltd, said: “The iconic red BT phone box on CairnGorm Mountain situated just above the Base Station of the funicular is amongst over 170 listed for removal by BT in the Highland Council area.
“As well as being something of an iconic feature, it’s also a potential life saver – there may only be a handful of calls made but one could literally be the difference between life and death in an emergency situation, esp as this box is widely indicated on maps.”
Cairngorm Ranger, Ruari Macdonald, who discovered the notice, said: “How can we stop this from happening? The phone box is an iconic item on the mountain and quite an attraction for visitors to our site.
“As a member of the public I’d be devastated for its removal. How can we save it?”
The news also prompted dozens of comments on social media from outraged mountain enthusiasts urging BT to reconsider.
Pete Mings said: “That’s great, so when your buddy has broken his leg up top, it’s the middle of the night, no mobile signal, you look at your OS map and see a phone box, you go for help and bugger it’s not there.”
David Warnock wrote: “Maybe not used much but the decision to remove them does not just belong to BT as local councils must also undertake a review of how much these boxes get used but for the sake of health and safety the boxes in these areas should be kept without any question.”
And Jackie Johnson said: “Maybe these phones are not used much, all the same, these are needed in an emergency and shouldn’t be removed.”
A spokesman at Cairngorm Mountain said: “The phonebox has been there for a number of years and has become quite the icon.
“No one expects to see it and there’s also a safety aspect to it so could potentially be life saving. We get a lot of hillwalkers here in the summer months, who may not have the best signal and sometimes the main buildings are closed.
“We will absolutely be appealing to keep the phone box and have expressed this to BT already.”
Highland Council Leader, Cllr Margaret Davidson said: “Let’s be clear that this is BT’s proposals that we are consulting on and Highland Council is keen to know public opinion on all of these phones.
“It’s important that as many people as possible reply to the survey so that we can build an accurate picture of individuals’ and community views and needs.
“I urge members of the public to respond to the consultation. People living in the areas of proposed closures are in the best position to know the impact the removal of a payphone would have on them and their community.”
BT claimed that just five calls were made from the Cairngorm Mountain phonebox over the past year.
A spokesman for the firm added: “BT is committed to providing a public payphone service, but with usage declining by over 90 per cent in the last decade, we’ve continued to review and remove payphones which are no longer needed.
“Any removal of payphones is carried out in strict adherence to the Ofcom guidelines and, where appropriate, with the consent of local planning authorities.
“In all instances where there’s no other payphone within 400 metres, we’ll ask for consent from the local authority to remove the payphone. Where we receive objections from the local planning authority, we won’t remove the payphone.”