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Your Thoughts: Where Should the Great British Railway be Based?

4 min

Earlier this week, Peloton ran a poll discussing the latest announcement by Grant Shapps. Quadrant Transport looks at the results to hear your thoughts on the new home of GBR.

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps announced this week that a competition will be run for towns and cities to make a bid to be the location of the headquarters for Great British Railways (GBR), the leading public body responsible for Britain’s railways from 2023.

In an effort to establish a rail industry that’s more connected with its passengers and communities, GBR hopes to have a new national headquarters outside of the capital ensuring skilled jobs, investment and economic benefits are focused outside of London.

The poll, ran by Peloton, asked your opinion on where the new headquarters should be based between the North, South, East Midlands and West Midlands.

49% of voters believed the Great British Railways base should be in the North

There are multiple benefits of having a HQ in the north, such as greater opportunities for regenerating towns that have previously been missed, like Doncaster, and closer connectivity to Scotland.

Jonathan Ford, Principal Fleet Engineering Manager at Network Rail, Gareth Heald, Leasing, Asset, Development, Mobilisation & Property Management at Transport for London and Fred Sammut, Rail and HS2 Technical Sales at MGF all agreed that Doncaster would be a great location for the new development.

Others believed York would be the perfect place due to its already existing National Railway Museum. In a building home to iconic locomotives that celebrate the past, present, and future of innovation on the railways, perhaps becoming the home of GBR could be an exciting prospect?

Trevor Armitage, Station Manager at Cheshire Line & South Merseyside Outstations mentioned the idea of having Huddersfield as the HQ: “Huddersfield has a huge building right next to the railway station with space for around 400 vehicles. St George’s Quarter. 4/5 floors of prime ex Railway building 160,000 Square ft.”

It is a prime location with connectivity across the North of England, with easy cross connectivity to Scotland and the South of England.

South England fell second in the poll, gaining 20% of the votes

Many believed that having the base in Milton Keynes would ultimately save more taxpayers money than the effort of relocation.

Andy Stevenson, Project Manager/Senior Consultant Rail Systems Ricardo Rail mentioned: “They have a perfectly superb facility at Milton Keynes, why move?”

Lee Render, Freelance Graphic Designer that specialises in Customer Information in Public Transport/Transit added: “I’d say it’ll be easier to initially base out of Milton Keynes given the whole purpose of why Quadrant: MK was built for – especially as most specialities such as timetable team were moved to MK from regions to help coordinate things.”

Four voters also mentioned Bristol would be a great resource for GBR due to its already excellent rail connections in the south.

East Midlands (16%) and West Midlands (15%) shared similar popularity

Derby appeared to be the most popular choice amongst commenters, and a letter by Derby City Council has already been written to the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps to bring GBR to the city.

Government investment in Derby would not only bring decision-making to the city for the first time in decades but would maximise Derby’s existing strengths in the rail industry.

Heidi Lee, Marketing and Communications Manager at DB ESG was among those agreeing, stating: “Derby has the largest cluster of railway companies in the world and has a central location. Seems like the obvious choice to me.”

A Great British Railway headquarters in Crewe was also popular choice due to its central location in the UK. Brian Clemons, Senior Construction Manager OLE at AMEY RAIL LIMITED said: “Let’s have this centre in Crewe, middle of country, great railway connections. Let’s give regeneration to this location.”

Commenters highlighted the fact that Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland often get missed out

By not putting the GBR headquarters in England, the opportunities for Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland to benefit from increased government funding would show. Andy Clifton, Experienced Systems Engineering Contractor added:

Somewhere in Northern Ireland or Wales should be an option, it’s not the English railway.

Involving other countries in the UK, and not just England, would increase connectivity to all regions of Britain and increase the chances of jobs, city regeneration and boost more local economies.

The Transport Secretary also announced the creation of the GBR Transition Team under the leadership of Andrew Haines, who will continue to work as CEO of Network Rail. They’ll now be responsible for driving forward reforms and creating the railway’s new guiding mind.

The Transport Secretary has also set out the core goals that will define GBR, including:

  • Changing the culture of the railways and not simply creating a bigger version of Network Rail.
  • Thinking like customers, both passengers and freight, and putting them first.
  • Growing the network and getting more people travelling.
  • Making the railways easier to use.
  • Simplifying the sector to do things quicker, driving down costs and being more accountable.
  • Having a can-do, not a can’t do culture.
  • Harnessing the best of the private sector.
  • Playing a critical role in the national shift to net zero.