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Network Rail set to demolish Victorian signal box at Chartham


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A bid is being made to save a charming Victorian signal box which is set to be demolished by Network Rail next year.

The green wooden hut at Chartham, near Canterbury, dates back to 1888 and overlooks one of only three remaining manned barrier crossings in Kent, which are being automated for safety reasons.

Campaigner Claire Slater and the Chartham signal box
Campaigner Claire Slater and the Chartham signal box

The two others are in Wye and Grain.

Now an application has been made to have the structure at Chartham listed with Historic England in a bid to afford it some protection.

Network Rail is currently planning to remove the box but the parish council says it is in discussions with the company in the hope that it can be preserved.

Among the villagers who want to see it saved is Claire Slater, who lives nearby.

She says the box is part of the history of Chartham and a much-loved feature.

The Chartham signal box is set to be demolished
The Chartham signal box is set to be demolished

“When I heard it was going to be demolished I thought it was such a shame, and when I posted it on the local Facebook page, so did many others,” she said.

“It’s been part of the village for more than 130 years and there really aren’t many of them left.”

The signal box is manned 24-hours a day by three staff on shifts, who operate the gates up to 100 times a day.

But Network Rail says money spent on preserving it would be better used on improving services for rail users.

Mrs Slater, a retired former senior matron at the King’s School, said: “I’m not campaigning against the automation, just the loss of our lovely signal box.

The Chartham signal box has been part of the village for more than 130 years
The Chartham signal box has been part of the village for more than 130 years

“If the application to have it listed is not successful and it has to go, then we can look at ways of perhaps relocating it in the village, where it can have some kind of community use, or even be a little cafe."

Parish council chairman Dr Tim Clark says it is speaking to Network Rail about the future of the box and enquiring over the feasibility of moving the signal box, if there are no alternatives.

"We see it as an iconic landmark in the village and would hope that the building can ideally be retained in its current location, or moved elsewhere if that is possible," he said.

"We have not discussed future use in any depth in the parish council until we have more information."

A Network Rail spokesman says it remains committed to automating the three remaining manual crossing gates for safety reasons.

A signalman operating the crossing

He added: "While we understand a desire to preserve the box, we have also communicated the disbenefits in maintaining an unused asset at a cost and the impact it may unintentionally have on investment to benefit rail users.

"The signal box is not listed and is currently planned for removal as part of the plan to convert the crossing."

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