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Race is on to save historic signal box

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A battle has begun to try to save one of the last remaining 19th-century signal boxes in the North West of England.

The Type IIa Midland signal box at Wennington, Lancashire, is the only building of its kind left on the Lancaster to Skipton railway and is due to be knocked down in January.

It is understood Network Rail has been flattening similar timber structures at a rate of two a week as part of a wider demolition programme.

However, local campaigners are hoping to rescue the historic Wennington box, built in 1871, and have even offered to maintain the box for free - a proposal which has fallen on deaf ears.

Sue Dawson, the chair of Tatham Parish Council, said: 'In September, when actual demolition was threatened, the Lancaster and Skipton Rail Users Group asked Network Rail to preserve the box to give them time to offer it to heritage groups.

'But before arrangements could be made, [they] were told it was too late - the box was to be demolished.'

In a final bid to save the signal box, which has been hailed as 'one of the key attractions' on the scenic Pennine line, Dawson wants English Heritage (EH) to review its original decision not to list the building.

She said: 'We asked EH to list the box, but they replied that it was a common little signal box and not worth listing.

'However, if, as is reliably reported, Network Rail aims to demolish structures on the line at the rate of two a week, such signal boxes will become very uncommon.'

In response, a spokesman for Network Rail has hit back stating that the company remains committed to Britain's historic environment but must weigh up the costs of maintaining unnecessary and unwanted buildings.

He said: 'Network Rail is a publicly funded company and has responsibilities not only to its heritage but to taxpayers too.

'The company must ensure it realises 'value for money' in everything it does and this does mean reducing its costs and liabilities going forward.'

He added: '[Where] a building or structure represents a maintenance burden and has no realistic chance of being needed in the future, [we] look to remove it.'

According to Network Rail, the majority of the workings inside the Wennington box have already been salvaged to be used as spare parts elsewhere.

by Richard Waite

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