THE FINAL days of the last bastion of the Victorian era of railways in Cornwall is rapidly approaching as Network Rail come closer to completing their upgrade programme.

From March 11, the vast majority of railway signals in Cornwall will be controlled from a centralised control centre based in Exeter, with the closure of the manual signal boxes at Lostwithiel, Truro and Par.

The latest tranche of the work has seen the Cornish main line blocked beyond St Austell, with trains starting their services from the station towards Plymouth, Exeter St Davids, Cardiff Central and London Paddington as opposed to Penzance, the usual terminus for Cornwall services.

A spokesperson for Network Rail said: “Passengers are being urged to check before they travel ahead of Network Rail’s final phase of work to modernise signals in Devon and Cornwall and improve the resilience of the railway in the South West.

“Thirteen days of round-the-clock work in Cornwall began on Tuesday, February 27 and is due to be completed on Sunday, March 10. Work then resumes near Plymouth from Saturday, March 16 to Thursday, March 21.

“Signals that have reached the end of their working life will be replaced with a new digital system. The system will improve the reliability and safety of the railway and new digital technology will allow for real-time information to be provided to passengers.

“The work is the third stage of a major programme to transform how trains run in the region. Over the past few months, Network Rail’s contractor Siemens has installed new equipment and signals and laid new cabling over a combined 66 miles of railway. In this final phase of work, the new system will be brought into use and control moved to the regional signalling centre at Exeter, for Cornwall, and the Devon section to Plymouth.

“New signals in Cornwall are due to come into use on Monday, March 11, with Devon following on Friday, March 22.

“Part of the project is one of the largest programmes of track work ever completed in Cornwall. A team of more than 100 people will work across a 50-mile site to install new equipment that will ease congestion at Truro, remove redundant equipment, and lay new track, sleepers and ballast.

“Work will also take place to complete new level crossings at Truro and Lostwithiel that will improve safety and reduce delays on the railway.”

Until March 8, there will be no services between Liskeard and St Erth, including the branch lines from Par to Newquay, as well as Truro to Falmouth Docks.

On the weekend of March 9 to 10, there will be no services with the line closed between Plymouth and St Erth, including branch lines.