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The UK’s Network Rail Southern Region has appealed to its former signallers to return to ensure that the signal boxes and control centres are open throughout the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The company added that many of its staff have stopped coming due to self-isolation and sickness during the outbreak.

Network Rail needs to keep its rail lines operational throughout to ensure that essential workers can reach their workplace, as well as vital food and medical supplies are delivered in the country.

The former employees will help the company as a back-up. At Network Rail’s Kent, Sussex and Wessex routes, controllers and local managers who have qualification in signalling have started work in the signal boxes.

Network Rail Southern Region 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.

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“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.”

Earlier this week, the UK Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps stated that railway operators have the option to temporarily transition to Emergency Measures Agreements.