Flagship rail centre plan for East Coast line welcomed

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PLANS to open a flagship operating centre for the East Coast Main Line in York have been announced by Network Rail.

The Rail Operating Centre (ROC), one of 14 proposed regional control rooms across the country, would be built on a triangle of land between York Station and Holgate Bridge and completed in 2014.

But Network Rail admitted the centre would create no additional jobs for the city, with the 475 people employed there either existing railway workers in York or personnel moved from other parts of the region.

It raised fears that “consolidating” jobs in York would lead to the closure of signal boxes throughout Yorkshire, with staff offered early retirement or voluntary redundancy.

A Network Rail spokeswoman said: “It is our intention to maintain and consolidate jobs in York. It could mean the closure of signal boxes and the phasing out of manned level crossings elsewhere.

“People may decide they don’t want to move to York from other parts of the region, but it is too early to tell what will happen.”

The Centre is part of a long-term plan to bring all signalling and traffic control activity into 14 hi-tech control rooms over the next 15 to 30 years.

The ROC in York would be responsible for the entire East Coast Main Line from London to Scotland.

York Council welcomed plans for the 7,300 square metre site. Leader Coun James Alexander said: “Today’s announcement further underlines Network Rail’s continuing commitment to York.

“The city has a strong railway heritage and I hope that plans for the new Rail Operating Centre will help secure existing jobs and expertise in York, as well as generating opportunities for further growth. We will continue to work closely with Network Rail to support their work in the city.”

Robin Gisby, managing director of network operations for Network Rail, said; “York has a proud railway history and these new facilities will allow us to continue that whilst providing a modern, efficient service.

“The ROC is a key part of our strategy to improve reliability whilst driving down the cost of running and maintaining the railway.”

A spokesman for the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers said: “RMT awaits full details of the proposed centre and formal discussions with Network Rail in respect of the staffing arrangements. RMT is committed to modernisation and investment in Britain’s railways while defending the jobs and skills required to make it a reality.”