Derby launches campaign to become headquarters of Great British Railways

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Derby’s 180 years of railway heritage and deep-rooted culture of future railway innovation make it the ideal central location for the new headquarters of Great British Railways (GBR), according to the applicants.

GBR will be the new public body responsible for managing Britain’s railways. It will integrate railways across the country, own the infrastructure, collect fare revenues, operate and plan the network, and set most fares and timetables.

On 4 October 2021, the Secretary of State for Transport announced that a competition will be held to find a location for the headquarters outside London.

Historic railway ties and good rail connectivity to other locations are among the criteria that will be used to determine the winner.

Derby’s bid has the backing of councils across the East Midlands, including Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Leicester and Leicestershire, representing over three million people from across the region.

Councilor Chris Poulter, Leader of Derby City Council, who is leading the bid, said: “Railing is in the blood of many generations of people in Derby, who are understandably proud of our rich and deeply rooted railway heritage. My own father spent his entire working life at Derby Loco Works and the smell of motor oil is still strong in my memory.

“The railway homeland should also be forward-looking and that’s where Derby can excel. It is a center of rail excellence and innovation, with a strong supply chain to support a large and diverse rail cluster.

“We are the natural home of Great British Railways’ first national headquarters. Derby and all of our partners in the East Midlands make us the region best placed to meet GBR’s requirements and upgrade needs.

Paul Simpson, Chief Executive of Derby City Council, said: “Derby has an almost 200-year heritage as the center of the rail industry and is geographically at the heart of Britain’s rail network.

“Rail is embedded in our culture and as a city we are home to the largest and most diverse rail cluster in Europe. We have a highly skilled and talented workforce as we are home to leading innovative companies including Alstom, Rolls-Royce and Toyota.

“This move would provide a unique opportunity for the government to collaborate with the rail industry, as well as support the city’s upgrading program. With the support of our employees and local authority partners across the East Midlands, we are determined to prove that Derby is the right place for GBR.

GBR can greatly benefit from its location at the heart of the UK rail industry. More than 11,000 workers are employed in Europe’s largest and most diverse rail cluster. Centered around Derby, it covers all aspects of railway construction, maintenance and operation.

Derby is home to major automotive and aerospace players including Rolls-Royce and Toyota, making it uniquely positioned for GBR to benefit from cross-sector collaboration and a highly skilled workforce.

Will Tanner, communications director at Alstom UK and Ireland, said Derby was well placed to support the government’s relocation. He said: ‘The domestic business and strategic case for Great British Railways moving into the city is very strong indeed and we are delighted Derby is showing up. Alstom is the UK’s leading train builder and maintainer and is proud to call Derby home. The city has been building trains for Britain and the world since 1839 and continues to do so today.

As the most central city in the UK, Derby is in a prime location. More than six million people live less than an hour away, it is well served by train, car or plane. Situated on the River Derwent, Derby is not only the gateway to the scenic Peak District National Park, but is also part of the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Just as Derby is a great opportunity for GBR, it is also a great opportunity to advance the region. Derby currently has a low proportion of government jobs, the lowest for a city of its size in the UK. Becoming the headquarters of GBR would directly help level the region by diversifying and strengthening the local economy.

The government has announced its commitment to moving 22,000 civil service jobs out of London by the end of the decade. Relocations will be an opportunity to improve the capacity of the civil service, helping to attract and retain talented staff across the UK and for decision-making to better reflect the whole population.

Councilor Barry Lewis, leader of Derbyshire County Council, said: ‘We fully support the bid to bring Great British Railways national headquarters to Derby and believe it is the ideal location, not just because of its historic associations with the railway and the vital role it plays in the rail industry today but also its geographical position in the national rail network and its proximity to the M1 motorway.

“The city and county is home to Europe’s largest group of railway engineering companies and is the only place in the UK where you can design, test and manufacture a train on the same site.

“There are around 11,000 people working in the rail sector across the region, benefiting from a diverse pool of expertise, including cutting-edge research in collaboration with the University of Derby into rail decarbonisation and composite design . As part of the upgrade program, this would be a major boost for the East Midlands region and a real opportunity.

Councilor Ben Bradley MP, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council and MP for Mansfield, said: ‘Derby is the obvious place to be GBR’s headquarters, with its historic rail links and proud heritage of manufacturing and engineering, including Alstom building trains that drive both the UK and also much of the rest of the world. I support this offer, my advice also to Notts. The whole region supports Derby.

“With four new HS2 stations, including Derby, and billions in new rail investment across our region, Great British Railways’ new hub must be in the East Mids. This fits perfectly with our plans to boost investment and infrastructure by working together across the region, and with the new rail-related powers that are to be handed over to our region by the government. GBR should come to Derby.

Councilor Nicholas Rushton, Leader of Leicestershire County Council, said: “The town of Derby is the natural choice for GBR headquarters and the whole East Midlands region is behind the bid.”

John Forkin, Managing Director of Marketing Derby, added: “Derby is a bustling city home to one of the biggest rail clusters in the world and I can’t think of a better headquarters for the new Great British Railways.

“From a government perspective, it makes business sense and locating these jobs in the East Midlands would also help the upgrading scheme.”

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