Tuesday 6 May 2003
FROM CENTURY-OLD SIGNAL BOXES TO STATE-OF-THE-ART TECHNOLOGY
- Region & Route:
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.”
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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.
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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.
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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.
About Network Rail
We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.
Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.
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