CVL lineside telephone rationalisation

24 April 2023
Image of a train in front of a building
Amey Consulting’s proposal to remove outdated lineside telephones from the modernised Core Valley Lines control and communications system will save time, money and carbon emissions without compromising safety

As part of its contract with Transport for Wales (TfW) to modernise the Wales & Borders rail network, Amey is renewing the ageing infrastructure of the Core Valley Lines (CVL). Tight budgetary constraints mean that Amey Consulting’s design schemes need to take a smart approach to maximise value and minimise costs.

A good example of this is Amey’s plan for modernising the CVL’s rail control and communications systems. The renewal programme includes a comprehensive signalling upgrade controlled from a new integrated control centre (ICC). Amey is providing a new internet protocol network to support the control systems.

As part of this project, Amey and the client identified an opportunity to rationalise the control and communications infrastructure by removing outdated lineside telephones, including over 200 signal post telephones (SPTs) and around 20 point zone telephones (PZTs).

SPTs are legacy assets historically provided as a safety measure, installed at signals to enable train drivers to communicate with signallers. PZTs were provided to allow maintenance staff to observe the operation of points. Both types of telephone are connected to their current control centres via a copper wire infrastructure which is costly and time-consuming to maintain. Connecting the phones to the new ICC would add significantly to the cost and carbon emissions of the resignalling project.

The need for SPTs has largely been superseded by the provision of in-cab radios using Network Rail’s established GSM-R radio network, backed by mobile phones as a secondary measure. Drivers are able to communicate with signal and operational staff from the safety of their cabs. Similarly, PZTs have fallen into disuse on the CVL, and indeed these telephones are no longer included within the scope of Network Rail resignalling designs.

However, CVL stakeholders were naturally concerned about the removal of an established lineside communication system, and needed to be reassured that the safety of drivers, signallers and maintenance staff would not be impacted. The main issue was the risk of loss of signal at the locations served by the SPTs and PZTs, leaving drivers and trackside workers without a means to communicate with signallers and control centres.

Amey conducted a hazard identification workshop which determined that the risk would be mitigated by the provision of multi-sim mobile phones to both train crew and trackside staff. The signal strength of the public mobile operators networks was tested at each site to ensure there was adequate coverage, with each location covered by at least one operator. This ensured sign-off by all interested parties, including CVL infrastructure operators, train and freight operating companies and rail unions.

Amey’s proposal to decommission the outdated lineside telephone network offers several benefits. Valuable materials such as copper wire can be recovered and recycled. Operational expenses are reduced, and the time and resources required to maintain the cabling infrastructure can be deployed elsewhere. The scheme contributes significantly to the safe, reliable and efficient running of the CVL as it enters the digital age.