MORE than 100 homes and business in Southampton have been without phones and the internet for nearly three weeks.

Firms in Swaythling say they are being devastated while elderly residents and disabled people are being denied their lifeline to the outside world.

It is the second time in two months that people in that part of Southampton have been hit by phone problems. The latest failure comes after internet and phones in Swaythling, Mansbridge and Woodmill went dead for more than two weeks in October.

BT has blamed both breakdowns on the same problem – water damage to an underground cable. The company admits it has no idea when services will be resumed.

Customers say the telecommunication giant has given poor information about what is going on ever since the lines went dead on November 1.

Empty promises They claim that when they inquire about the problem they are fobbed off with promises that the service will resume the next day.

The firm says it is having to rebuild an underground junction box and replace cabling and surrounding ducting.

A BT spokesman told the Daily Echo: “We cannot give a firm date at the moment, but we are doing all we can to restore services as quickly as possible. This is complex work which all this work requires traffic management and we are working with the council to ensure we can undertake this work quickly and safely.”

Business people in Swaythling say the service failure is killing their trade.

Shane Pletts runs the Racquet Centre, a specialist racquet store in High Road. He said he had lost at least 75 per cent of his business because his credit and debit card machine has been out of action.

He said: “It’s shocking, they seem to be doing their best to put us out of business.”

Next door at the busy Hatchers newsagent, Kamal Patel has not only lost business through his card machine being out of action but also because people cannot buy credits for electricity and gas.

He said: “If people can’t buy this they will go elsewhere and I will lose a customer. This is devastating my business.”

Ivan Wood, who has run Hants and Dorset Industrial Gases in Burgess Road for the past 35 years, said: “If new and present customers come in and cannot use their cards they will go elsewhere and never come back.”

BT said customers should take up compensation claims with their service provider because its engineering arm BT Openreach only maintains the service.

While businesses are losing trade, residents have also lost internet and their house phone which to some is a lifeline.

Swaythling ward councillor Maureen Turner said: “Elderly people who have not got mobile phones are absolutely stranded. Something might happen and they can’t get hold of anyone – and their families who may live far away can’t check up on them. This could have disastrous consequences.”

Brian Richmond, 76, of Willis Road, said: “We feel terribly let down. What happens if someone wants to phone?

“They had the hurricane in American but got everything going much quicker than this.”