An ambitious bid to bring the home of Britain’s railways to York has been heralded as a “defining moment” for the region’s economy after receiving support across the political spectrum.
York is among six short-listed locations across the country which have been chosen by the Government as potential locations for the headquarters of Great British Railways (GBR).
The new organisation has been unveiled by the Government and will be tasked with streamlining the operation of the country’s railways, and York’s bid to become its new national base has been given cross-party support from political groups on the county council.
If successful, the decision to create the new headquarters for GBR in York would help unlock major economic benefits and job opportunities across North Yorkshire and the North of England.
A collective show of support has been given outside County Hall in Northallerton, with councillors from the county council’s Conservatives, the Liberal Democrat and Liberal group, Independents, Labour and Greens all gathering to back York’s bid.
Leader, Cllr Carl Les, said: “The bid by York is ambitious and shows the intent in both the city and across North Yorkshire to bring real economic benefits and the prospect of hundreds of new jobs, and could prove to be a defining moment for the region.
“York has a long and proud heritage connected to the railways dating back to the Victorian era, and it would be fitting for the city to be at the forefront of attempts to reform the nation’s rail network in the 21st century.
“All political groups on the county council have come together to give a collective voice for our support of the bid to bring Great British Railways’ new headquarters to the city, as it will be of huge benefit not just for York, but for the whole of the region as well.
“The fact that York has been selected for the shortlist of just six locations to be the new home of GBR shows the strength and ambition of the bid, and we are all hopeful that it proves a success and the new headquarters is brought to the city.”
Research has shown that creating GBR’s new headquarters would be a key component in the Government’s drive to tackle regional inequalities under its so-called levelling up agenda.
Analysis has shown that the new headquarters would add an estimated £110 million to York’s economy, creating 1,600 new jobs with 320 of those roles in the 700 most deprived communities within an hour’s train journey of the city.
York is already one of the biggest rail centres in the country, with 5,000 employees linked to the industry and major train operators based in the city.
The city is also home to the National Railway Museum (NRM), and the York Central project, which is one of the largest brownfield sites in the country, is centred around the city’s railway station.
Political group leaders at the county council have expressed their hopes that the bid to bring GBR’s headquarters to York becomes a reality.
The leader of the opposition on the county council, Cllr Bryn Griffiths, who is the leader of the Liberal Democrat and Liberal group, said the city’s long association with the railways provided a strong case for the bid to prove successful.
He added that creating the base in the city would help the NRM’s own ambition of becoming a “global engineering powerhouse” through a six-year vision to develop the attraction.
The leader of the Labour group, Cllr Steve Shaw Wright, claimed he is “fully committed” to the campaign to bring the headquarters of GBR to York.
He said: “York is the historic home of the railways, it’s the home of the National Railway Museum, and it would be illogical to have the GBR headquarters anywhere else but York.
“The economic benefit that will be created by a decision to locate the headquarters in York will be a major economic boost not only for the city, but for wider area. I urge everyone to support the bid and help bring economic prosperity to the area.”
The leader of the North Yorkshire Independents Group, Cllr Stuart Parsons, said: “It is vital that York be chosen. It will bring new jobs to the city and beyond and huge investment, which will benefit both York and North Yorkshire.
“It will also give strong impetus to the success of a devolution deal, proposals of which have been announced with the Government.”
The coordinator of the Green group on the county council, Cllr Andy Brown, added: “York is the ideal location for the national railway HQ.
“It has a proud tradition in the industry, an excellent skills base and brilliant connections with direct lines to Penzance, Edinburgh, Birmingham and London.”
City of York Council’s leader, Cllr Keith Aspden, stressed that bringing GBR’s headquarters to the city would open up opportunities across the whole of the region.
He said: “With 700 of the most deprived communities in the UK within an hour of York, the jobs created by locating Great British Railways in York could have a hugely positive impact on the levelling up agenda.
“Our rail heritage, expertise and skills from across the region and strength in innovation makes York the obvious home of rail.
“I would like to thank North Yorkshire County Council for their support for our bid. We have been overwhelmed by the backing we are getting so far with local businesses, universities, colleges and organisations across the region.”
The creation of GBR was announced as a major foundation for once-in-a-generation reforms of the nation’s rail network launched by the Department for Transport just over a year ago.
The new organisation will be charged with ending the nation’s fragmented rail industry and provide a far more co-ordinated approach across the network for passengers and freight customers.
The central headquarters will be the heart of the rail network and will provide the strategic direction for the running of GBR, as well as bringing highly-skilled jobs to the area around the successful location.
As part of the Government’s commitment to level up the UK’s economy, the new headquarters will be based outside of London and bring high-skilled jobs to the winning location.
Local economies will be further boosted by a number of new regional headquarters across the nation, putting decision-making and investment at the heart of the communities that use railways.
The shortlist of potential locations for GBR’s headquarters was announced earlier this month by the Government, and was drawn up after a total of 42 bids from towns and cities across the country were submitted.
The other locations on the shortlist include Birmingham, Crewe, Derby, Doncaster and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
A public vote will play a crucial role in determining the chosen location and officially opened earlier this month. Members of the public can choose the town or city they think makes the best case for this prestigious honour online, with the final decision made by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps later this year.