Network Rail have been training extra signallers with the help of a heritage centre as they aim to continue to move people who can’t work from home, like NHS staff, and vital freight throughout the coronavirus crisis.

Swindon Panel Society (SPS), based at Didcot Railway Centre, have offered use of its reconstructed and refurbished signalling panel, which is the desk signallers use to control trains, to help ensure Network Rail has enough trained signallers available.

Without enough signallers Network Rail wouldn’t be able to help the NHS or other emergency staff get to their places of work and they wouldn’t be able to keep freight moving to help keep power stations going, petrol at the pumps, medicines available and vital supplies in our shops.

Signallers would ordinarily be trained in existing control rooms but to minimise the risk of spreading the virus those areas are not available.

The society’s equipment works in the same way as the original in terms of route-setting as simulated trains move around the layout, obeying signals and braking and accelerating in a realistic way, making the panel an ideal training tool as Network Rail aims to keep the railway running.

Mike Gallop, Network Rail’s route director for Western, said: “We are extremely grateful to the Swindon Panel Society for taking us in and enabling us to train extra signallers.

“The panel is of an excellent standard and allows signallers to learn vital skills in a realistic environment.

“Those being trained would ordinarily be in the control room but to reduce the risk of spreading the virus we are not allowing visitors into those areas.”

Danny Scroggins, SPS chairman, said: “We are delighted to be helping out Network Rail by provision of training equipment in this way, and proud that we’re able to do ‘our bit’ in the fight against Coronavirus.

“The use of the panel by main line staff such as Network Rail’s is a great tribute to the standard of work of the many volunteers who have spent thousands of hours bringing the panel back to working order.”