Retired signallers needed to keep the railway going

Manchester Rail Operating Centre.

To keep the railway running during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Network Rail is appealing for retired signallers, or those who have moved to other careers in the railway industry, to return to roles in the Rail Operating Centres (ROCs), such as the one in York, and at signal boxes at other locations across the country.

The company says that, whilst the railway is currently performing well, it is important to prepare for the next few weeks, and former signallers can provide crucial cover if some members of the workforce need to self-isolate.

Secretary of State Grant Shapps.

This move is in response to a suggestion from Secretary of State Grant Shapps, who said: “To ensure those who absolutely-need-to-travel are able to safely, I’m requesting the rail industry ask retired staff including signallers to assist in this great national effort to beat Coronavirus.”

Network Rail is working hard to keep signal boxes and control centres around the country open 24/7. However, with the need to keep lines running day and night to keep key workers getting to their jobs and vital food and medical supplies flowing across the country, the company wants to retrain former staff to help provide backup.

Controllers and local managers, who are also qualified signallers, are already back in signalboxes across the network.

Chris Gee, Network Rail.

Chris Gee, head of operations (Eastern region) for Network Rail, said: “We are working hard to keep vital services, which get key workers to their jobs and food and medical supplies across the country, moving.

“We are appealing for signallers who’ve retired, moved on to other careers at Network Rail or left the railway to come back and help us keep signal boxes and control centres open.

“Signallers are crucial to keep the railway open and we need more former workers to help us provide back-up if some of our staff can’t come to work. Full re-training will be given.”

Training at York ROC? In fact, Network Rail’s Phil Verster explains the system to Hugh Bayley MP at the centre’s opening in 2014.
John Halsall, Network Rail.

The same appeal has been repeated in other regions. In the south, managing director John Halsall said: “This region carries half of all passengers in the country and Channel Tunnel rail freight, and the pressure is on us to keep that going more than ever before. I’m appealing for signallers who’ve retired, left the railway, or moved on to other jobs in Network Rail that they can take a break from, to come back and help us keep the south moving.

“Under normal circumstances we have enough signallers to keep trains running whatever happens, from flu to winter colds season, but these are not normal circumstances and without signallers to route trains there will be no way we can keep the whole network open.

“So, if you can help us, get in touch.”

York Rail Operating Centre.

Any former professional signallers interested in helping the railway should email:
or contact their local Network Rail control centre.

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