A multi-million pound automatic warning system developed by British Rail was scrapped in the run up to privatisation, NCE has learnt.
The inductive loop warning system (ILWS) was developed by the British Rail research centre in Derby in the 1980s and early 1990s, but was scrapped prior to privatisation in 1995.
ILWS worked in conjunction with the signalling system, detecting trains v by using electrical circuits in the track and passing information to a track worker's handset at least 25 seconds before a train entered a specific zone.
A report by the Track Research Unit in 1993 showed that 42 out of 45 track side worker deaths over 10 years could have been avoided if ILWS had been used.
Former BR project team head Colin Simpson said this week that, although the system was originally developed for safety reasons, the financial pressures on Railtrack have increased its cost effectiveness.
The massive cost of possessions and compensation payments to train operating companies would make a permanently installed system vital where red zone working was needed.
He said that, although technology has outdated the ILWS system, a lot of the research done is still relevant.