400 phones cut off by copper thieves

PUBLISHED: 12:10 14 February 2008 | UPDATED: 12:57 06 May 2010

Karl Jelley outside the shops which were affected by the phone cut-off

Karl Jelley outside the shops which were affected by the phone cut-off

AS many as 400 Harpenden properties have had no BT phone lines since Friday because copper cabling was damaged in a bungled bid to steal it. Repairs have been further delayed by a gas leak — apparently unconnected with the attempted theft — which meant BT

AS many as 400 Harpenden properties have had no BT phone lines since Friday because copper cabling was damaged in a bungled bid to steal it.

Repairs have been further delayed by a gas leak - apparently unconnected with the attempted theft - which meant BT engineers were unable to start work on the site until today (Thursday).

It has caused huge problems for butcher Karl Jelley who runs Jelley's Meats in Luton Road.

He and the neighbouring shopkeepers - a newsagent and a wine shop - have already lost hundreds of pounds since Friday as a result of being unable to process chip and pin credit card transactions.

Mr Jelley said: "I had heard that scrap metal theft has risen to epidemic proportions but this is ridiculous. This is very difficult for me as 75 per cent of my business is done through credit cards."

Paul Bishop of Luton Road, Harpenden, whose phone has also been out of order since Friday, said he has been given three separate dates for when the phones might be fixed.

He said: "First I was told it would be an hour, then maybe days, then not until February 22. It does make life difficult."

It is believed households affected extend from Luton Road westward to the Roundwood Park area.

A BT spokesperson said: "BT does have a secure network but this was a very determined attack. The latest situation is that we are waiting for the gas company to make the area safe so we can go back to work."

He added that they would be doing all they could to restore phone lines as soon as possible.

A National Grid spokesperson said a gas leak in Luton Road was reported on Saturday and a team sent out to investigate it within the hour.

She added: "We found gas escaping from the main and have been working ever since to repair it."

She said the work was due to be completed yesterday (Thursday) after which the BT teams could start work on repairing the lines as it would be dangerous for engineers to use soldering equipment anywhere near a gas leak.

A police spokesman said one or more men drove a white flatbed lorry along Luton Road in Harpenden at around 1pm on Friday.

He added: "They cut the cable from two junction boxes and attempted to pull it through but failed to remove it."

Anyone with any information on the incident is asked to contact Pc Nicky Fisher on 0845 33 00 222.

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