Network Rail has given more details about its plans to concentrate signalling operations in just 14 rail operating centres over the next 15-30 years, to save £250m a year, cut delay times and enable more trains to be run on the network.

More than 800 signal boxes would become redundant, and a comprehensive review is now underway to identify which should be preserved because of their historical success.

Bodies like the National Railway Museum, English Heritage, Historic Scotland, the Railway Heritage Trust, Cadw (the Welsh Government’s historic environment service) and the Heritage Railway Association are involved in that process.

Tom Higginson, Network Rail head of town planning, said: “Our operating strategy would see a huge acceleration in the number of signal boxes decommissioned each year, so it is vital that we have plans in place to deal with that sensitively and sustainably.

“Identifying the most significant signal boxes so that they are safeguarded for future generations is something we are all committed to – it is important that they have a life after the national railway network has finished with them.”

In England, 40 operational and 40 non-operational signal boxes have listed status.

Tony Calladine, designation team leader at English Heritage, said: “There is great enthusiasm for our railway heritage and English Heritage recognises the importance of signalling and signal boxes in the history of our railways. We are therefore happy to be able to contribute to this important initiative.”

Elizabeth McCrone, head of listing at Historic Scotland, said: “We welcome Network Rail’s early engagement with us about these structures. Railway signal boxes are an important part of our national heritage, reflecting both social and engineering history. We will now look at carrying out a study of signal boxes across Scotland to ensure that the best examples are recognised through listing.”

Helen Ashby, head of knowledge and collections at the National Railway Museum, said: “Signal boxes are an important part of the railway infrastructure and its history. Many signal boxes have important people and historical stories that relate to them, therefore it’s important that we preserve not only the material evidence of the signal boxes, but also the stories associated with them.”

(Image, courtesy Network Rail, shows Hademore Signal Box on the move)

Author's Bio: 

Roy Rowlands writes for Rail Technology Magazine an independent technical trade journal for the UK rail industry offering a wide view of rail news views and opinions, he also writes for a rail jobs board reporting on the latest trends in rail recruitment