Signal fault may have been caused by “heat and sun”

The level crossing at Polegate
The level crossing at Polegate

A new state-of-the-art signalling system, which promised to improve the reliability and punctuality of train services, could be failing because of the temperature.

Last week signal failures at Cooden Beach and Polegate caused a headache for frustrated passengers travelling on Southern services between Hastings and Brighton, which affected Eastbourne commuters. It also caused the level crossing barriers at Polegate to be stuck down until the problem was resolved.

Network Rail contractors were called to fix the problem. One contractor working on the Cooden Beach site is alleged to have told a Bexhill resident that ‘heat from the sun’ was to blame for the signal failures.

Network Rail confirmed that ‘heat-related speed restrictions’ had been in place on the line on the day of the failure, when a balmy temperature of 22.9C was recorded. The company said it was still investigating what caused the failures, but added that the heat could not be ruled out.

A Network Rail spokesperson said, “We are very sorry for the delays to passengers between Hastings and Brighton on Wednesday (April 15).

“We had a series of signal problems on the line between Bexhill and Eastbound, caused by failures of the equipment that detects the passage of trains. These are called axle counters, and as the name suggests, they count the number of axles into a section of line and then out. When they fail to reset, as they did on Wednesday, signals stay red and we have to run a very limited service as a result.

“This was new equipment that has worked very well since it was installed on February 14, and we are looking closely at why it failed.”

The spokesperson added, “We can’t rule out heat being a factor at present.”

The new signalling system was installed in mid-February after a delay of almost two years. When it went live two months ago, Network Rail said it would provide “a better, more reliable service.”