Norwich OAPs left without their phones since Christmas

Pensioners living at a Norwich sheltered housing complex have been without access to BT telephones since Christmas after a major fault.

Residents at Waddington Court, off Dereham Road, have been unable to make phone calls using their land lines since December 27 following the problems, while the cold weather has held up any repair work.

The problem, which is believed to have been caused by a major underground cable fault, is also believed to have affected some homes in nearby Nelson Street and Dereham Road.

Now neighbours are trying to get answers about what has caused the fault and when it will be fixed.

Retired painter and decorator Ronnie Hawes, who has lived at Waddington Court for the past two years, said the problems had caused a lot of inconvenience to residents.

'There are 36 bungalows and 34 are out, while the other two who are with Virgin have still got their phones,' said Mr Hawes.

'Apparently it's going to be back again on January 16, but they have been telling us different dates all the way through,' he said.

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'It's costing me a fortune in mobile phone calls. I've had to contact all my friends and family here to tell them.

'But a couple of the ladies living here don't know what to do, they are just lost and their sons and daughters have come to see them to make sure they are all right.

'I'm OK because I have got a mobile, but there are some people in their 80s and 90s who are panicking.'

Susan Brown, from Bramfield Close, said she had run up a large mobile phone bill so that she could stay in touch with her mother, Eileen Garner.

The 52-year-old said many of the residents had been worried that they would be left isolated because they could not use their phones, but BT has installed a satellite link to ensure that the alarm system was still functioning.

'It's been a constant nightmare, which has cost a fortune,' she said. Sarah Martinez, Norwich City Council spokeswoman, said once the fault was reported the council immediately switched to a back-up system to maintain the emergency alarms and would seek to claim back any costs from BT.

A BT spokesman said there had been problems in replacing a faulty underground cable. 'We are now ready to change over the new cable but we cannot proceed as we have detected gas in one of the manholes. This has been reported to the relevant gas company and we will proceed as quickly as possible with the repair, once it is safe to do so. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience and assure those affected that we are doing all we can to get this all completed as quickly as possible.'