This year (yet again) British Telecom and OFTEL found it necessary to change the area codes for some of the UKs biggest cities, and those of Northern Ireland.

For your easy reference, the changes are listed below

Area          Old Code  Old Number     Changed      New Code New Number
Cardiff        01222      XXXXXX      5 August       029     20XX XXXX
Coventry       01203      XXXXXX     19 August       024     76XX XXXX  
Portsmouth     01705      XXXXXX      2 September    023     92XX XXXX 
Southampton    01703      XXXXXX      2 September    023     80XX XXXX 
London (Inner)  0171     XXX XXXX    14 October      020     7XXX XXXX 
London (Outer)  0181     XXX XXXX    14 October      020     8XXX XXXX 

The Northern Ireland Area Codes have changed totally.

OK, the area codes of various UK cities have changed over the past decade or so, especially in London, and usually with an extra digit or digits added to the 'phone number. Some confusion is inevitable. But every time it has been explained clearly what's the code and what's the extra digit. (I.e. new code for London - 020, add 7 or 8 to the old number). And every time, without fail, people have tacked the extra digit onto the code, i.e 0207 or 0208. And then they try to call Barnet from Croydon without the 8 and wonder why they can't get through.

It has to be said, though, that British Telecom don't help themselves by printing both the new area code and the extra digits in the area codes section of the 'phone book, thus reinforcing the error.

London's area codes have gone through hell in the last ten years. We used to be 01. Then they needed more numbers. So they split the city into inner 071 and outer 081. No, hang on, I can't even remember now. Didn't we have a stage where we were 0171 and 0181? Yes... no... who can tell... Yes, that was it, but I can no longer remember which was the earlier stage, 0171/0181 or 071/081, but one was needed as an intermediary to the other.

Anyway, nong43's point is that recently (a year or so ago) a wholly new area code was created, 020. At the same time all the seven-digit phone numbers in London were changed to eight digits, by the simple expedient of adding either 7 or 8 in front. This is part of the phone number, not the area code. You can't leave it out.

But, going by painted signs on shops and vans and sationery, approximately one half of Londoners believe it was another area code change, 020 becoming 0207, and if you're within the one zone the number is unchanged. Wrong.

A horrible cock-up all round.

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