The purpose of signalling and interlocking is primarily to control and regulate the movement of trains safely and efficiently. Signalling includes the use and working of signals, points, block instruments, and other allied equipment in a predetermined manner for the safe and efficient running of trains. Signalling enables the movement of trains to be controlled in such a way that the existing tracks are utilized to the maximum.
In fact in railway terminology signalling is a medium of communication between the station master or the controller sitting in a remote place in the office and the driver of the train.
The history of signalling goes back to the olden days when two policemen on horseback were sent ahead of the train to ensure that the tracks were clear and to regulate the movement of the trains. In later years, policemen in uniform were placed at regular intervals to regulate the movement of trains. Railway signalling in its present form was introduced for the first time in England in 1842, whereas interlocking was developed subsequently in 1867.
Objectives of Signalling
The objectives of signalling are as follows.
(a) To regulate the movement of trains so that they run safely at maximum permissible speeds.
(b) To maintain a safe distance between trains that are running on the same line in the same direction.
(c) To ensure the safety of two or more trains that have to cross or approach each other.
(d) To provide facilities for safe and efficient shunting.
(e) To regulate the arrival and departure of trains from the station yard.
(f) To guide the trains to run at restricted speeds during the maintenance and repair of tracks.
(g) To ensure the safety of the train when it comes in contact with road traffic at level crossings.