Valentine’s Day has turned sour for one Northumberland businesswoman after her flower shop was left without a phone line or internet access for almost a month.
Lesley Rutter, who runs the Flower Cabin in Seaton Delaval, Northumberland, should be experiencing one of her busiest weeks of the year as the annual day of romance approaches.
But instead, customers have been unable to get through on the phone or via email to place their orders.
Her business is one of up to 20 properties on Avenue Crescent that have been without a working phone line or internet access for just over three weeks after a fault in an underground cable.
Lesley said it has been a “nightmare” for her and the other homeowners and businesses who have been trying to survive while repair work takes place.
She said: “It’s a nightmare. There’s at least 11 properties that haven’t had phone lines for weeks now and BT don’t seem interested and just keep telling us different dates that it will be fixed.
“I’m a florist and it’s Valentine’s Day this week, which should be really busy.
“We’ve tried everything. We’ve even been on to planning at County Hall but it’s BT Openreach that are responsible.”
The Flower Cabin is one of a number of businesses affected including the popular Crescent Cafe ice cream parlour.
As well as being without a phone, Lesley says her card payment machine - which requires interent access - has also been unable to work throughout the ordeal.
However, any complaints and communication with BT, she says, fell on deaf ears.
Lesley added: “All we were told initially was that there was a fault on the line and they were just saying it was out of their control but it seemed like they had not done a single thing.
“They wouldn’t tell anybody anything. I’ve been ringing them constantly off my mobile.”
BT have said the repair has been beset by problems which have caused a significant delay in completing the work.
An underground stretch of 81 metres of cable required complete replacement, however, replacing the cable was hampered due to blockages in the ducting which prevented removing the old cable and inserting the new.
As engineers began to clear the blockages, a section of around 16 metres of the duct collapsed and had to be completely re-built and certain sections also required traffic management. Additionally, engineers experienced further delays due to cars parked above manholes preventing access into the network.
Last night BT, said the excavation work is now complete and a new cable was going in place yesterday with a view of joining each customer back on to it one-by-one. All being well, full service is expected to be restored by the end of today.
A BT spokeswoman said: “We are very sorry for the loss of service experienced by customers on Avenue Crescent. Work to replace an 81 metre stretch of underground cable has been severely delayed by duct blockages, a long section of collapsed duct and parked cars preventing access to the network.
“All the excavation work has now been completed and work to run the new cable and rejoin each customer back onto it one-by-one is starting today.
“We are expecting full service to resume by the end of tomorrow.”
Despite BT’s assurances, Lesley said she remains sceptical that the problem will be resolved after a number of false promises.
The 48-year-old said: “All I can say is it’s a good job I haven’t been holding my breath since this started.
“At the beginning we were told it was going to be done by January 24.
“We’ve probably already lost a lot of business.I employ people and it’s hard enough as it is at the moment having to compete with supermarkets to keep small businesses alive.”