Our ref: HSR/2/15

Head Office Circular: NP/235/22

26th October 2022

To: The Secretary




Dear Colleague,




At a meeting of your National Executive Committee (NEC) on 29th September 2022, they considered two resolutions received from the 2022 National Industrial Organising Conference of Signalling and Operations Grades:


1) Line blockages, SBNS & T3S – Network Rail

“This Conference calls upon the General Secretary to demand a meeting with Network Rail to have a total overhaul of the management and planning of line blockages especially the timings the line blockages are booked to be taken, the numbers of the same line blockages being booked

and not taken and the numbers being requested. Together with the complacency of the COSS's doing their job, not understanding the area that is being blocked especially when just reading parrot-fashion the information on their forms, when being challenged they say “that’s what my forms



Line blockages are being booked for a long period of time during the day between trains which means due to the level of train services the line blockages are being put on and taken off many times which can lead to "is it on or not?" and by keep taking reminder collars on and off while still

running a full train service can lead to mistakes by importing risk which the operations manual says should be avoided - in our box that is mostly sixty trains an hour on each panel with four main lines, two or more branch lines, with two to four complicated junctions and stations with up to 8 platforms

on each panel.


Other line blockages are being booked on for very short time period anything from 10 mins to 30 mins which means often due to disruption/late running they are out of time but as these are often for hook switches for T3's it causes problems and pressure to get them in. In some weeks the same line blockage is being requested for multiple days when they only turn up for one night.


The number of line blockages that are not fit for purpose either badly written or too long which when turned down the COSS goes away and gets a fault number to enable them to do the planned work anyway.  Poorly trained COSSs not understanding the line blockages they are requesting - by not understanding the area that is being blocked, especially when just reading parrot fashion the information on their forms, when being challenged they say "That's what my form says".


In one case led to staff being on an open road when a train went through on a line they thought they had blocked but in fact it was the other line they had blocked. In another case the COSS wanted to place the detonators outside the area to be blocked on an open running line.”                                        


The NEC resolved as follows:

“We instruct the General Secretary to take this matter up in line with the resolution. 


Further we note the recent formation of a planning and working group using protection arrangements 019 module review is due to commence on 19th October. We therefore instruct the General Secretary to ensure this item is added to the agenda for the initial meeting and all developments to be placed back before this NEC”. 


2) Line blockages – No red zone working 

Since the No Red Zone Working Line Blockage system of booking blockages became policy of our union, the North East have observed that the increased line blockage with additional protection mainly consists of Disconnections which is placing the responsibility on the Signallers to contact the technician for disconnecting/Reconnecting along with trying to find margins for the blockages and trying to run trains adding additional pressure on our signallers - most blockages cover multi lines and junctions and complex areas.


While agreeing with the no red working on track we believe that there should be an overhaul of the whole line blockage system and request our NEC NOC to find out how bad the problem is at National Level. How the pressure on Signallers is affecting their health and to act on the information gathered from branches to minimise the amount of line blockages being booked - size of blockages reduced to aid the safe granting of blockages as a

matter of urgency.”


The NEC resolved as follows:

“We note the resolution and further note that a planning and working groups using protection arrangements 019 module review has been set up. We therefore instruct the General Secretary to ensure this item is referred to the working group of the review all further developments to be placed back before this NEC.


Further we instruct the General Secretary to conduct a survey of all our signaller grades to assess the impact that “the no red zone working line blockage system” is having on our members health. 


All results from the survey to be placed back before this NEC”. 


I am acting in accordance with these instructions.


Please bring the contents of this circular to the attention of relevant members. 


Yours sincerely



Michael Lynch

General Secretary