A MAST erected in a field near Blackhill Lane has been installed as part of a new railway communication system.

Russell Crisp, of Blackhill Lane, wrote to the Guardian last week saying he was unhappy with the appearance of the mast, built at the beginning of February.

“The farmland site chosen for the shiny new cell phone mast is on possibly the highest land in south Knutsford and, as no attempt has been made to disguise the mast, it will be visible in all its glory to residents and users of Blackhill Lane for years to come,” he said.

He said he was unable to find the planning application for the mast – built close to the Mid Cheshire Line – but it seems the mast does not need permission.

It has been installed by Network Rail as part of a new tracking system and is exempt from planning because of a legal loophole, which means they can even be built in areas of outstanding natural beauty and conservation areas.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “The system will provide secure communication between drivers and signallers across Britain’s entire passenger rail network – even in cuttings and tunnels.

“The GSM mobile technology, formatted for rail use, will help improve safety and provide better information for passengers.

“GSM-R technology has been adopted as the de-facto global standard and is already being used or introduced in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia.

“There are a number of communications systems in use in different parts of the railway that allow drivers and signallers to talk to each other. In some parts of the country there is no such system.

“Those that do exist are analogue systems, and, like analogue television, they will eventually be switched off. The new system is digital, and will work in tunnels and railway cuttings, so the one system can be used throughout the railway.”

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