Chris Pye, infrastructure director, North West route
The last few days have been difficult for passengers travelling to and from the North West. We’re very sorry for this.
On Thursday morning (17 September 2020), we experienced a major failure of our signalling equipment between Crewe and Cheadle Hulme. We’re working hard to get it fixed, but unfortunately, the repair is complicated and is taking some time.
How do signals work?
In this area, the signals guide trains safely through check-points between Crewe and Manchester. If signals aren’t working, we can’t run trains because we can’t detect where they are.
Signals are the traffic lights for the railway. They stand trackside and tell drivers when it is safe to proceed and what route their train will take.
What’s a signal failure?
When passengers hear an announcement about a signal failure, it’s usually a failure of the wider signalling system. It no longer has all the information it requires, such as the exact position of trains or the status of the track ahead.
If our signals fail, they do so in safe way. But this causes delays. The system will only allow train movements when it knows it’s safe to do so. They immediately turn at red, causing the train to stop.
Why can’t you simply turn them off and on again?
Sometimes this can work, but very often it is a component that needs to be located trackside, which has failed. This is what happened at Crewe.
This failure requires staff to physically access and repair the component along miles of cable. Just finding the fault can be very tricky, let alone fixing it. And, the signalling system which control the signals is extremely complex and requires detailed analysis to understand the issue. Unfortunately, this all takes time.
Once the repair is fixed, multiple trains will have been stopped by red signals. So, it’s not necessarily a quick fix to get the things moving again as train units are out of place. This can affect the running of services for the remainder of the day.
An engineer working to restore signalling equipment in Crewe.
We all use trains and we know how frustrating it is when your train is cancelled or delayed. Please be assured we’re working hard to get this issue fixed and get timetabled services back up and running again.
Thank you for your patience. Once again, please accept my apologies.
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Delays explained – signals and points failure
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