Thousands cut off in Stoneleigh due to telephone chaos
Hundreds of businesses were thrown into chaos and thousands of elderly people cut off after telephone landlines went down for more than 36 hours in Stoneleigh.
The Epsom Guardian was bombarded with calls on Tuesday as angry residents and business owners vented their frustration at the problem.
Many businesses suffered financially, including hairdressers Eden and Stoneleigh Post Office, both on Stoneleigh Broadway, as they were unable to use credit card facilities which require a working telephone line.
BT confirmed the problem with the Ewell Exchange, which handles calls for 12,000 residents and 500 businesses, was caused by vandals damaging approximately 150 metres of vital underground cables.
The Post Office was forced to shut for 36 hours, and postmaster Kaushik Shukla said: "We had to close for two whole days because everything couldn’t operate without the phone line.
"I couldn’t sell one stamp. We will have lost lots of business in two days. My mobile phone cost is nearly £42 to £45."
Katie Lane, a hairdresser at Eden, said: "We were shut on Monday, but on Tuesday the phones were down all day.
"It meant no-one could book any appointments – if people were new and they could not get through they probably would give up.
"The internet was down as well, it was just a bit of an annoyance. We thought it was just us for the first hour but then heard everyone else had gone crazy."
Problems began on Monday, at around 2.30pm, when some people noticed their phones were not working and in local shops some credit cards were being declined for seemingly no reason.
The problem was exacerbated because the ATM in The Broadway was not working either meaning many people had no access to their money.
Richard Eagle, who lives in Stoneleigh Broadway, said: "People were having terrible problems on Monday.
"Co-op couldn't accept cards and the cash point didn't work because that relies on a phone line.
"The Station, a bar in Stoneleigh which is normally busy, was like the Marie Celeste it was so empty."
The area is also home to many elderly people who rely on their landline including Frank Walsh, 72, who said: "I've never owned a mobile phone so need my landline.
"I've felt completely cut off and had no way of communicating with family who were really worried.
"I heard a story about one man who has an emergency alarm. It also relies on a phone line in case he needs to call the ambulance."
Despite being told it might not be fixed until Friday, many residents' phone lines were working by 9am on Wednesday (August 15).
However, some people said they did not have a functioning phone until 2pm.
A spokesman for British Telecom said engineers are working around the clock to fix the problem but appealed for the public to be vigilant.
He said: "We are doing all we can to get these repairs completed and service restored as quickly as possible.
"A BT partnership with Crimestoppers offers up to £1,000 reward for information leading to arrests and subsequent successful convictions.
"People can call anonymously and free on 0800 555 111."
Has the problem caused your business financial problems? Let us know by calling 020 8722 6346.