Wigan North Western Station Platforms, National Rail, C National Rail
GBR will launch in 2023, replacing Network Rail. Credit: National Rail

Shapps announces competition for Great British Railways HQ 

Dan Whelan

The transport minister is inviting towns and cities outside London to bid to become the home of the new national body for the country’s railways, but York is already being heavily tipped as the government’s preferred location, according to sources. 

The Great British Railways headquarters will provide “high-value jobs and investment to the chosen area, in line with the Conservatives’ levelling up agenda,” the party said. 

The plan forms part of the Tories’ pledge to move 22,000 civil service jobs out of the capital by the end of the decade. 

Crewe and Derby are among the early candidates to express an interest in hosting the proposed headquarters. 

Kieran Mullan, MP for Crewe and Nantwich has already written to the government “pressing the case for Crewe to become the HQ of the new Great British Railways”, according to BBC reporter Phil McCann. 

Crewe HS2 Railway Station Entrance From Weston Road 900x506

Crewe, which is developing an HS2 hub, has expressed an interest in the GBR HQ. Credit: via Cheshire East Council

Meanwhile, politicians and business leaders in Derby have called on Shapps to pick the town. 

However, it is understood that the government is keen on York, which is already home to the National Railway Museum. 

York City Council leader Cllr Keith Aspden wrote to the government back in June saying that the city “is the heart of the rail industry in the north” and that opening the HQ in the city would make “perfect sense”. 

Great British Railways was announced in May and aims to provide a solution to the current franchising model when it launches in 2023.

The body, which will replace Network Rail, will own the railway infrastructure, collect fares and be responsible for setting timetables and ticket prices. 

“Great British Railways deserves a great new home, and the competition is on to find the city or town that will become the future capital of our railway industry,” Shapps said. 

“For the winner, it will mean a new employer offering high-value jobs for decades to come.” 

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, told Place North West that Northern towns and cities should come together to formulate a single bid rather than individual councils and places submitting their own bids. 

“We should come together to get the best opportunity in the best possible location. We should get behind our strongest city, wherever that may be.” 

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York is pretty close to Sunak’s constituency so stands a good chance of getting this.

By AngryfromManchester

Erm so what of Network Rail’s current HQ in Milton Keynes that’s only a few years old? Another waste of money at the behest of this incompetent government.

By Pru Leith

York doesn’t need this. Although it will probably be chosen as it looks like a Southern town with its cream teas and river cruises. Manchester was where the first passenger service began so why not? Or Liverpool? Or Darlington/Stockton? All have links with trains.

By Elephant

Places still being expected to waste money “bidding” for things. This isn’t levelling up.

And of course the “northern powerhouse partnership” suggests that “the north” backs his bid to put it in Manchester…

By Jeff

Is it me, or do you get tired of these bidding processes, where there’s clearly one runner on the inside track – just select the location, don’t create false hopes.

By Rich X

Woe betide anyone who should suggest Liverpool.

By MMCD Sausage

The North having to perform like trained dogs to get a taste of that government gravy. Demeaning doesn’t begin to describe it.

By Anonymous

York is the only suitable place

By Graham Cowley

Actually, Elephant, LIVERPOOL is where the first intercity passenger service began. On a line 70% paid for by Liverpool’s business community.

Nice try with the subtle rewriting of history.

By Jeff

Stockport…? They’ve just granted permission for their next Stockport Exchange phase and have very exciting plans for their station.

By Anon

Yes Manchester with the first intercity passenger Station should have been a prime candidate.The train station still exists and is a wonderful museum. Of course we know how these processes work, York has already been picked.

By Anonymous

That was a genuine mistake. I thought it set off from Manchester destined for Liverpool. I did say that Liverpool should be considered though as the home of the HQ.

By Elephant

Making a swanky new HQ at the cost of the taxpayer feels like yet another government vanity project. The existing companies already own good buildings and we are also in the world of hybrid working. So out of touch.

By Steve G

@Steve while I’m inclined to agree with you, arguably, given the deliberate directions and placements of so much government or government related/dependent machinery into Manchester, the entire city’s 21st century emergence could be called a vanity project in that case.

Most of the UK does very little work that is actually productive. These projects are about injection of cash into economies where, currently, very little circulates. This has always been readily correctable.

The government will have some questions to answer if it continues to exclude Liverpool from suitable governance and major investment. The fact they have been forced to send commissioners should tell them they’ve got it very wrong so far.

By Jeff

It shouldn’t be Liverpool or Manchester, they are both stuck in the past

By Cal

There’s already a gigantic £120 million 3000 person HQ right next to the railway station in Milton Keynes. Only a few years old. Why on earth would you need a new one?

By Pj101

When you are buying votes no price is too high .
Moving thousands of jobs from London and Milton Keynes to York is totally sensible.The risk is you will lose experience.
Anyway we can no doubt look forward to new regional HQ when it decentralises for Great Scottish Railways, Great Welsh Railways. Where will Great English Railways go? More vote buying opportunities to come.

By Justice 4 the People