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Minister visits York railway development site

The busiest of Network Rail’s 14 planned Rail Operating Centres, at York, and the city’s new Workforce Development Centre got ministerial blessing yesterday as Simon Burns MP paid a visit.

The rail minister also cut the ribbon to officially open the new turntable that has replaced the old engineer’s triangle, which occupied land that will now be used for the new ROC.

Burns said: “This Government is committed to modernising the railways and this regeneration scheme provides another example of us making good on our promises through our partnership with Network Rail.”

Route managing director Phil Verster told RTM that Network Rail’s plans to centralise operational control in 14 ROCs are “significantly driven by taking costs out of the railway” through enhanced automation.

He said: “To give you an indication, around 178 signal boxes will be re-controlled into the ROC. Can you imagine how many human-intensive operations that is, that will now be automated through an intelligent bank of computerised control systems. It’s a significant headcount reduction.”


(Above: Rail minister Simon Burns and LNE route MD Phil Verster discussing the plans for the ROC on site yesterday)

Network Rail has stressed that the long-term nature of the plans for the LNE route means that “compulsory redundancies are not anticipated” in achieving the headcount reduction.

The ROC will employ about 477 staff with a maximum of 93 on shift at a time, while the WDC will employ 30 and train 150-200 delegates a day.

Across the country, the long-term ROC plans are expected to cut the signalling workforce from its by two-thirds from its 2011 size, to about 2,000, over the coming years.

Verster said the benefits are not limited to efficiencies however, noting that automation allows greater access to rural lines at all hours, opening up access and alternative train paths. York will be the busiest of the ROCs, due to its geography, since so much of the Northern network is that side of the Pennines.

He added: “Meanwhile the investment in modern training facilities will make sure our employees remain among the best in the world. As well as bringing future employment benefits, which are vital for economic growth and prosperity in York, we hope that the location of these new facilities on the edge of the York Central development site could act as a catalyst for further investment in the area.”

The new turntable began life in service at Cleethorpes before being relocated to Ferme Park in the 1970s. It has been brought to York to provide turning facilities for charter services, rail plant and the National Rail Museum. The minister and media saw it in action yesterday, turning West Coast Railways’ Loco No.5972 ‘Olton Hall’ (aka ‘Hogwarts Castle’).

Minister 14

Information about the history of the site can be found on Network Rail’s online virtual archive.

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