Collaboration 26 April 2019

Keeping Passengers on the Move During Disruptive Works: The Derby Resignalling Project

Network Rail plans essential works with great care to keep disruption to a minimum, but with large scale engineering works it is often inevitable. The £200m track realignment and signalling renewal scheme at Derby station required a 79-day disruptive possession of the Midland Main Line, meaning access to the network was restricted and this impacted timetabled passenger and freight services. To  keep passengers moving and neighbours such as local residents and businesses, informed, communications specialists from Network Rail and the Train Operating Companies (TOCs), East Midlands Trains and CrossCountry worked as one team to create a comprehensive communications strategy – and the results speak for themselves.

Benefits at a Glance:

  • Despite the disruptive nature of the works, only six complaints were in relation to preparatory works with just nine complaints received during the 79-day possession (this represents a complaint level of <0.1%)
  • Passengers kept moving: around six in ten people surveyed said they either had or were still intending to travel during the works
  • Support for the work increased with each successive wave of communications and peaked at 47%
  • Positive feedback received from weekly progress updates to stakeholders included:
    • Congratulations on the Derby re-signalling which seems to have been really well managed and great news for the industry.” Elite KL and Rail Forum Midlands Board Member
    • “Thanks for your briefings; they’ve been really useful” Rail Engineer Magazine
    • “Thanks. Really useful to see” Department for Transport

The Derby Resignalling project concluded on 8 October 2018 following a 79-day disruptive possession of the Midland Main Line. The £200m track realignment and signalling renewal scheme required 600,000 hours of work, 17km of new track, 79 sets of points, 63 new signals, 240 engineering trains and 150,000 tonnes of ballast.

The possession required weekly timetable changes as the work transitioned from the south to the north of the station over a 9-mile-long worksite that necessitated 5,400 bus replacement journeys. In addition, there were two major milestones that passengers needed to be made aware of during the possession. Firstly, on day 44 when approximately 80% of the services returned to Derby Station and secondly, the single day when there were no services at all (required for wheels-free testing).

Network Rail worked extremely closely with East Midlands Trains and CrossCountry to develop a common identity for the project and suite of messages and materials that met the needs of all parties and were consistently applied to communicate with internal and external audiences.

Transport Focus – a watchdog for transport passengers – was engaged as a direct result of Lessons Learned from other disruptive possessions. They not only conducted passenger research and gauged public support, but also tested and adapted collateral, including station posters and leaflets, before they were produced.

A dedicated community liaison representative was appointed to supplement the lineside neighbour mailings regime to work closely with the most affected residents and businesses.

Six months prior to work commencing, Network Rail commissioned an animation of the work and the TOCs published a microsite enabling passengers to plan their journey. The animation illustrated why the work would take 79-days to complete and answered most of the anticipated questions to help passengers and minimise the number of service requests to the helpline.

Three stakeholder events were hosted prior to the possession working in partnership with inward investment body Marketing Derby, the Chamber of Commerce and Derby College to increase both attendance and message reach. Presentations given at the events were from both Network Rail, TOCs and Transport Focus – transparently sharing research results to show our commitment to passengers and neighbours.

During the main possession, a weekly rhythm of communications including press releases, time-lapse film footage, newsletters to stakeholders and infographics were distributed. Several visits from local media outlets were facilitated as well as two trade media visits, two MP visits and one from Network Rail’s new Chief Executive, Andrew Haines.


  • Only six complaints were in relation to preparatory works with just nine complaints received during the 79-day possession (this represents a complaint level of <0.1%)
  • Three quarters of passengers (75%) surveyed by Transport Focus were aware of the resignalling works and two-thirds of them (61%) felt they knew at least ‘a fair amount’ about the work being carried out
  • Over a quarter of passengers (26%) were ‘very satisfied’ and 31% ‘fairly satisfied’ with communications
  • The Derby animation detailing the work was viewed over 30,000 times and there were 165,000 visits to the journey planner
  • 82 different notification letters were sent out to approximately 20,000 properties (business and residential) in relation to the 79-day programme.

Lessons Learned/Best Practice

  • Communications specialists from Network Rail, East Midlands Trains and Cross Country worked as a single team to keep passengers and stakeholders informed and this was essential to the success of the communications programme
  • The commitment to passengers and neighbours was demonstrated through the transparent sharing of information and research findings
  • Lessons Learned during the delivery of other large-scale disruptive works in Nottingham Station, Bath Spa and London Waterloo were actively applied at the outset to ensure mistakes weren’t repeated.


Further viewing:

Link to animation:


Examples of consistent identity and messaging during the communications campaign:


Summary of Transport Focus Research: