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.
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.”