Iconic red telephone kiosks on the Royal Mile are being revamped for the modern age – and turned into cash machines.
One of the quintessential landmarks was replaced yesterday morning with a shiny upgrade, complete with ATM and stainless steel windows.
And the futuristic model outside the Radisson Blu – installed as part of BT’s efforts to bring traditional phone boxes back into use – even boasts an old-fashioned payphone for those hankering after a bit of nostalgia.
But the new edition hasn’t proved a hit with everyone, with some heritage groups warning it risks adding to the “street clutter” on the historic thoroughfare.
Marion Williams, director of the Cockburn Association branded the quirky ATM “out of place”.
She said: “We objected to them because they – the applicants – weren’t specific about what the use would be. Also there is enough street clutter. It might lead to queues and a need for more litter bins.
“It looks out of place. There are plenty of ATMs, whether in supermarkets or banks, and I’m not sure another is needed. It’s right outside our office.
“We have made a big stink about street clutter and I don’t think this helps.” Bill Cowan, chairman of the Old Town Community Council, said he welcomed the novel use of traditional phone boxes – but admitted some might find them unsightly.
He said: “We quite like these ATMs. It keeps the phone boxes there – it gives them a reason to stay. They are part of our heritage now, and if you want to keep the red phone boxes, they have to have a use. They could have been done better – the ones I have seen were not very good. But they’re traditional, and the tourists like them.
“We didn’t object to them as a council – we didn’t have any problems with it. The red phone boxes are a lesser of many evils.”
BT said the controversial transformation was part of a wider scheme to bring old-fashioned phone kiosks up to speed with the modern age.
And the unusual renovation has raised more than a few eyebrows among shopkeepers the length of the Mile. Neil Cammock of Cadenhead Whisky branded the upgrade “a red telephone box with a robot in it”.
And Anna Ewart, who works in Nicolson Kiltmakers a few yards down from the new phone box, said: “I quite like them, to be honest. It’s keeping the tradition.”
A BT spokeswoman said: “Calls from BT payphones have fallen by more than 80 per cent in the last five years, so we’re always looking for new and innovative ways to maximise the use of our phone boxes.
“That includes combining cash machines with payphones in both modern and traditional red kiosks.”