RAIL operations across the length of the country are to be controlled from York as Network Rail opens its new £25 million operation centre in the city.

The Rail Operating Centre (ROC), which will eventually be the base for a team of 400 workers, was officially opened yesterday following the completion of a seven year, "world leading" project.

Created in a bid to reduce delays and improve capacity, the ROC will house the signalling and control operations across the entire network, replacing up to 1000 signal controllers currently situated along services between London King's Cross and the Scottish border.

Yesterday York Central MP Hugh Bayley officially opened the new centre, which has been built over the last two years on the edge of the York Central site.

He said: "I think this is an engineering marvel; It's the 21st century equivalent of the Forth Bridge.

"This is a really major state of the art venture for the railway industry and I'm really pleased and proud that Network Rail and the other partners have chosen that it should be here in York.

"York has been the centre of the railways for a century and it will continue to be so for years to come thanks to this. This enormous investment is a real vote of confidence in York as a rail city."

The operating centre is the largest in the country, and will also be home to controllers from rail operating firms East Coast and Northern Rail.

The consolidation of signalling and control into one site is set to generate savings of around £65 million for Network Rail, and reduce delays by around 30 per cent.

Phil Verster, Network Rail route managing director, said: "It's not an over statement to say this is the beginning of a new age for how we control our railways.

"The whole of the rail industry right across the world is at the start of implementing this. We are really leading the world in terms of the control and operations of rail ways.

"It is very special for us to be in York as we are so entrenched and our roots go so deep thanks to what York has done for the rail community. "

In January the ROC will replace Network Rail's current route control building at the back of York station, which the company hopes will free up more land closer to Leeman Road and the National Railway Museum, and ultimately support City of York Council's ambitions to develop the York Central tear drop site.

It is expected to take several years to migrate the entire Network Rail signalling operation into the ROC.