Several Westminster Hall debates have been held on possible locations for the headquarters of Great British Railways, including York, Darlington, Carnforth, Crewe, Derby, Swindon and Stockton. 

These debates were held on 24 November 2021, 7 December 2021, 8 March 202229 March 202227 April 202224 May 2022 and 7 June 2022 respectively.

Great British Railways

In May 2021, the Government’s White Paper on rail reform, the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail (The Plan) set out its plan to create a new public body, Great British Railways, to run the railway in Great Britain.

Role and responsibilities of GBR

Once established, this new body will take on many of the functions currently undertaken by the Department for Transport, Network Rail and the Rail Delivery Group (RDG). In the Plan ,Government has said GBR will “run and plan the rail network, own the infrastructure, and receive the fare revenue.” GBR will also “procure passenger services and set most fares and timetables.”

How will GBR be structured?

The Plan outlined that GBR will have a regional structure to ensure the railway reflects the needs of the towns, cities and regions it serves. Key strategic decisions will be taken centrally, with operational matters led by five regional divisions.

More information on the Government’s rail reforms is set out in the Library’s paper on the Future of Rail.   

The headquarters of Great British Railways

On 5 February 2022, the Government announced a competition to help determine the location of GBR’s headquarters, which will be outside London.  The competition is being led by the Great British Railways Transition Team (GBRTT).

Who could apply?

Local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland had until 16 March 2022 to express an interest. On 19 April 2022, the Rail Minister, Wendy Morton MP,confirmed that 42 expressions of interest had been received.

Criteria

The GBRTT are assessing these bids against the six criteria.

 The criteria includes practical considerations such as the value for money of the proposed location and how easy is it to travel there by rail and other sustainable modes.

GBRTT is also looking at the opportunities the proposed locations could offer Great British Railways, such as how it will support the new body’s engagement with its customers, the rail industry and other bodies.

Bids are also being judged on their rail heritage and how they support the Government’s Levelling-Up agenda.

Next steps

In May 2022, to help decide on the new headquarters, ministers will visit a shortlist of possible locations. 

In a recent PQ, it was confirmed that the shortlist of possible locations will be announced shortly. GBRTT will also hold an online public vote. The Secretary of State for Transport is due to make the final announcement in the summer 2022.

More information on the competition is available on GBRTT’s webpage, National Headquarters Competition for Great British Railways.

Further reading

National Headquarters Competition for Great British Railways, Great British Railways Transition Team

Great British Railways: Stockton-on-Tees, House of Commons Written Answer, 19 April 2022

Oral evidence: Great British Railways, House of Commons Transport Select Committee, HC 1076, 30 March 2022

Great British Railways Headquarters: Crewe Bid, House of Commons Debate, 29 March 2022

42 towns and cities launch their bid to become new home for Great Britain’s railways, Great British Railways Transition Team, 18 March 2022

Great British Railways Headquarters: Carnforth Bid, House of Commons Debate, 8 March 2022

Great British Railways, House of Commons Written Answer, March 2022

Great British Railways, House of Commons Written Answer, 9 February 2022

Great British Railways Competition ‘cringeworthy and ill-judged’ says former rail boss, Independent, 7 February 2022

Public competition launched to find new home for Britain’s railways, DfT, 5 February 2022

 Parliamentary references to Great British Railways


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