Town gets its own Bermuda Triangle

Littlehampton Today

MOBILE phone masts are being blamed for a spate of mysterious car breakdowns which are turning Beach Road into the Bermuda Triangle of Littlehampton. In just one week, signals from the masts are thought to have jammed the immobiliser systems of at least 10 cars, leaving their drivers stranded.

The problem affects only a short stretch of the road's northern end, and once the cars have been pushed or towed 50 yards away, their central locking and immobiliser systems work perfectly well again.

The nearest mobile phone stations to the affected area are at the police station off East Street, where there are three transmitters.

Michael Blackwood, who works at Arun Security, Beach Road, said that in the last week people had been coming into his shop and asking for help because their cars suddenly wouldn't start.

"The first one was on May 16," he said, "when a lady came in and said that her car had just died on her. People come into us here because we sell keys and car keys.

"It happened twice on the first day and it seemed a bit of a coincidence, then it happened three times the next day.

"We've helped push two cars about 50 yards down the road and then they work again. The RAC have been out to two cars and each time they've towed them just down the road. They seem to know what to do."

Jayne Young works in the Spokes bike shop next to Arun Security and parks her car across the road each day.

She said: "My remote locking only works for the driver's door in Littlehampton, but when I go to Worthing to visit my mum it works fine.

"I got the car in February and when I brought it back here the key wouldn't even open the driver's door sometimes.

"Some days I get so annoyed, I leave the car at home and walk into work."

Paul Hodgson, of the RAC said: "It's an issue which has come up on a national level and it's generally accepted that it is the masts that are causing these problems."

He explained that car locking systems were allocated a frequency of 433.92MHz by the European Radio Committee in 1993 and this became European Law in 1995.

But the same frequency was already allocated to the Ministry of Defence, amateur radio operators and traffic information systems. Some private and public access mobile radio networks also operate close to the 433MHz band and these stronger sources of radio transmission could sometimes block the signal from the radio-activated key.

Simon Bates, spokesman for the Office of Communications (OFCOM) said: "OFCOM is complaints driven so if people who have been affected by this contact us, we will come out and investigate.

"In the past we have found that problems have been caused by interference from a local transmitter but in many cases we have not been able to take action because the transmitter was found to be operating within the terms of its licence.

"In these cases what we have done is recommend that people contact their car manufacturer to see if they can help."

26 May 2005


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