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Railhub Archive
2003-05-06 NET-001
Network Rail


From century-old signal boxes to state-of-the-art technology

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West Anglia
signalling renewals

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Network Rail

From century-old signal boxes to state-of-the-art technology

6 May 2003
source Network Rail
type Press release

London & South East

The spring bank holiday weekend signals a new era in railway technology on the West Anglia route out of Liverpool Street.

The route is currently controlled by small century-old signal boxes but Network Rail is investing £184 million into a new signaling system, which will improve reliability and efficiency.

The bank holiday weekend will see the completion of the fifth stage of the West Anglia Route Modernisation (WARM) project, which covers the area from Waltham Cross to Roydon, including the Hertford East branch line.

Steve Reynolds, Project Director said: “Over the weekend 87 newly erected signals will be commissioned and the control of six signal boxes, five level crossings and other accommodation crossings will be transferred to Liverpool Street Signalling Control Centre. This project is a landmark for the West Anglia route, using state-of-the-art technology which will benefit passengers and the train operating companies.”

The fifth stage of the WARM project will start a new chapter in the Hertford East branch line’s 160 year history. The line has seen many alterations in the past, the biggest to date being electrification in the 1960s. In a few weeks time the second biggest change will be implemented when the signal boxes will no longer be in use and the signallers will be transferred to other locations.

The Hertford East branch line, originally known as the Hertford and Ware railway opened on 31 October 1843. The first train on the new line left Shoreditch at 8am and reached Hertford in just over an hour. Signalling on the line was very crude and the signals were operated by levers on station platforms.

There were only two signal boxes on the line, at Stratford and Broxbourne. When a train wanted to go to Hertford they would whistle three times and the signalman would adjust the points accordingly. Many of the stations and signal boxes have gone through many changes and some have even moved completely.

The station at Broxbourne was originally built 200 yards south of the current station. The box of 1908 was replaced in the 1960s. Rye House station was built three years after the line opened, as the area wasn’t very developed. Even when the station did open, tickets were purchased at the Rye House Hotel. St. Margarets station opened even later in 1865.

The original station at Hertford was situated about a quarter of a mile to the east of the present station. It was a modest single storey brick building and was in use until 1888 when the new station, 300 yards nearer to the town, opened.

W.N. Ashbee, who was a prominent railway architect, designed the new elegant building in red brick with stone dressing. Apparently more than 100 people travelled to Ware by the 7.12am train just so they could be the first train into the new station. Most walked back from where they had come! The East was added to the station’s name in 1923.

The building has a grade II listing in recognition of its architectural and historical qualities. The signal box was built in 1888 when the present station opened. It is a typical example of a box of the 1880s. It is 11ft 4 inches wide and 26 feet long and originally contained 36 levers manufactured by McKenzie and Holland. This was later expanded to 45 levers.

Apart from the century-old signal boxes, some of the signalling system on the route dates back to the 1960s. It is now reaching life expiry and becoming difficult to replace, decreasing reliability. More than 200 km of signalling cable has been installed – to reach Liverpool Street – and replaced.

The new signals are fundamentally different to the old signals as they are bigger and have four aspect colour lights and are much easier to see. New bases on the signals make them durable and guaranteed to last for decades. The signals will all now be controlled from Liverpool Street control centre with signalmen monitoring real-time train movements round-the-clock.

Level crossings will be monitored by CCTV camera and crossing controllers. The signals are also interlinked with the crossing equipment making them safer and more efficient. At smaller crossings, members of the public will still have to phone the signalman for permission to cross, but the phones are also linked to Liverpool Street.

Network Rail is paying for the project, but the project has involved many specialist contractors who have worked tirelessly to bring the project in on time and to budget.

Contact information

Media Relations (London & South East)
020 3356 9166 / 9164

Railhub Archive ::: 2003-05-06 NET-001


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