Blue phone boxes stolen before launch of Leeds ‘sci-fi wi-fi’

BLUE FOR YOU: Adam Beaumont with one of the new blue phone boxes. PIC: Mark Bickerdike
BLUE FOR YOU: Adam Beaumont with one of the new blue phone boxes. PIC: Mark Bickerdike
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The first of a number of Tardis-style blue phone boxes has landed in Leeds – but police are trying to find several others that have “dematerialised”.

Telecommunications company AQL installed the eye-catching booth on Leeds Bridge yesterday as bosses launched an initiative to bring free wi-fi access to internet users across the city.

The scheme has been branded ‘sci-fi wi-fi’ after the firm had a number of traditional red phone boxes – that will act as internet hubs – repainted blue to look like Dr Who’s Tardis.

But police have been called in to investigate after 10 of the booths went missing from Uniquely British, the Kent-based company that was restoring them for AQL.

AQL chief executive Adam Beaumont, a doctor of physical chemistry, said: “Our Tardis-like phone boxes have literally dematerialised.

“I’m the doctor who has lost his Tardises!”

AQL planned to have 24 of the blue phone boxes, which are solar powered, installed at locations across the city to store network equipment under what it is calling the Leodis project.

Once in place they will be locked and all services will be accessed from outside using touch panels behind the glass.

The public will be able to make phone calls as well as gain wi-fi access.

AQL had spent £30,000 buying 10 of the boxes and having them restored. But when the delivery date arrived, the company discovered that they had been stolen.

Dr Beaumont added: “We found out that the owner of the company had died and someone had done a runner with the phone boxes.

“What’s upsetting is that this was a not-for-profit project to roll our free wi-fi across the city. There was no commercial gain for us.”

Kent Police confirmed they were investigating and enquiries are ongoing.

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As well as offering wi-fi access and telephone calls, AQL’s blue phone boxes will allow users to leave video blogs and soundbites of their memories of Leeds.

The information will be archived and shared online to contribute to a digital history of the city.

The initiative, christened Leodis (Leeds electronic ordnance and digital information system), reinforces Leeds’s commitment to providing high-speed internet connections to the public.

In December Briggate became one of the first city centre retail areas in the country to offer free wi-fi following a deal between Leeds City Council and Virgin Media Business. In March, Millenium Square became the latest spot to offer a free wi-fi service.