A BUSINESSMAN whose car broke down in Fordingbridge on Monday spent 40 minutes looking for a public phone box only to find the only one in the town had been vandalised, with a Snickers bar stuffed in the coin slot.

Stuart Wickham, 42, was on his way to work in Salisbury when his Alfa Romeo came to a grinding halt near a lay-by on the A338.

When he tried to ring his office on his mobile to alert his employer to his plight, he had no signal.

He walked to Fordingbridge and searched for a phone, but after a marathon effort he found the only remaining public phone, in Roundhills, had been rendered useless by the confectionary.

Fortunately Mr Wickham found a kind-hearted resident who lent him her phone to make calls to his office and a mechanic, but he said he wasted at least a couple of hours of his time on his search.

Now he is urging BT to keep at least one public telephone in each town and to keep them in good working order.

Mr Wickham said: “I am pretty sure my situation this morning was not an isolated incident. Payphones are going the way of the dodo at a rapid pace and not everyone has a mobile phone.

“I was lucky that I found a kind lady to lend me hers and I was in a position to be able to reimburse the cost of the calls but not everyone is in that position.

“It is important that there is at least one telephone box in each town or village and that it is in good working order.”

Mayor of Fordingbridge Malcolm Connolly said: “It is sad some irresponsible person has decommissioned this phone box. BT took away the telephone boxes in the town because they were not were paying.

“In protest the town council fought to keep the phone box at Roundhills because we have a large number of elderly people using it to order their taxis.

“Now it seems that Fordingbridge is sadly without a public phone, which is bound to be a problem for many people.”

BT telephone kiosks have been in towns and villages since 1936.

A BT spokesman said: “Mobile phone usage has meant a huge decline in payphone use. It costs a lot of money to maintain them especially when many are vandalised, such as this one.

“We do check our pay phones regularly when they are emptied and cleaned but we cannot check them every minute of the day. We rely on members of the public to report to us if a pay phone is not working.”