SEVERAL businesses in Winchester have faced disruption this week after telephone line failures.

Shops and cafes on Upper Brook Street and St George’s Street have been without a line since last Tuesday (February 11), and one business has been told it could be weeks before it is sorted.

It means that shops are unable to take payments by credit or debit card, use the internet and make or receive calls.

Workers have criticised BT for failing to update them, despite the telephone exchange sitting just yards away.

Park Life Kids has hired a mobile credit card machine, at a cost of £80 per week.

The manager, Danielle Pendlebury, said they hired it out of necessity. She said: “The owner, Maria Harvey, had a statement from BT this morning (February 18). They said it could be weeks before our phone lines come back and they didn’t seem to know what’s wrong.

“We have had to pay to hire a mobile machine because otherwise we have no way of taking card payments, and as a small business we are affected a bit more than bigger businesses would be.

“The majority of our payments are taken by card so it’s a real problem, and we don’t know when it will be sorted.”

It is believed that the basement of the telephone exchange has been under four feet of water for over a week, causing damage to underground cables.

Tom Romita, owner of Tom’s Deli, estimated that he has lost “hundreds” of pounds since the lines went down, and has even suggested solutions to BT.

He said: “I’ve been phoning them every day. I suggested running temporary cables over ground, and they said it was a health and safety issue. I suggested putting us on 4G and they told me to buy a dongle. Then I asked them to consider fixing it as a matter of urgency but they said ground water levels were too high.

“If they were ten miles away I could understand, but they are less than thirty metres away.”

The Citizens Advice Bureau, on St George’s Street, has remained open despite having no email or online system, internet or outgoing calls, and has spent an estimated £350 on mobile internet dongles and other emergency maintenance devices.

Jenny Meadows, chief executive of Winchester CAB, said it’s been a stressful time. She said: “I thought at one point that we were going to have to evacuate, but we have managed here.”

BT engineers visited the CAB on Tuesday (February 18), and it seems the problem in their office has been dealt with; however Gervades and Shoe Repairs, both on Upper Brook Street, confirmed they are still facing disruption.

A BT statement yesterday said: “We had a cable chamber which flooded and caused loss of service to around 100 properties in the area. We have cleared one cable and we also replaced around 60 metres of damaged cable to clear the vast majority of faults when this work was completed on February 14.

“We had around 20 residual faults left which did not clear. Engineers have been working on these remaining faults and we are hoping that these will all be cleared by the end of today (WED).”