A railway worker was present to see the end of an era for equipment he saw installed as Basingstoke begins to take over signalling across the south of England.

Andy Pulfer saw a signal panel controlling trains to Strawberry Hill and Shepperton deactivated following the last train on April 2, as part of work to upgrade the network. He had been present at the start of his career in 1974 when the panel was first commissioned.

Basingstoke’s Rail Operating Centre (ROC) will take over signalling from April 7, as part of plans which will see it control the whole Wessex region, from Somerset to London, within a few decades.

The work is part of the Feltham to Wokingham Resignalling Programme, a major scheme to improve journeys and simplify the control of the railways by basing them all in the same location in Basingstoke.

As part of the plans, 80 miles of railway and 500 separate pieces of signalling equipment will be upgraded on South Western Railway.

To install it, we first have to conduct enabling works such as installing new cabling and signal posts. Network Rail then has to commission that equipment, which requires the railway to be closed to trains.

All of this work is done over a period of months and on different parts of the network. The first phase of work, phase zero, was completed in June 2019 with the commissioning of new signalling equipment between Strawberry Hill and Shepperton.

Over the coming years, lines to Ascot, Windsor and Kew Bridge will be upgraded, and once work is complete, control of the line passes from Feltham and Wokingham and into the Wessex ROC in Basingstoke.

A spokesperson for Network Rail said: “The existing equipment – such as signals, the traffic light system for the railway, and track circuits, which tell signallers where trains are on the network – dates back to 1974 and is becoming harder and harder to maintain.

“In a long-term programme that will run through to mid-2024, we’re renewing that equipment with a modern equivalent that will be more reliable. We’ll also deliver a number of enhancements to improve train performance, as well as renew or upgrade 13 level crossings.”