Britain’s railways are embarking on a major, once in a generation reform that will transform the way in which the sector works, bringing together track and train to deliver a customer-focused railway. Great British Railways will be the railway’s new guiding mind, and a Transition Team has been established to drive forward its design and deliver early benefits.
The vision is to create a simpler, better railway for everyone in Britain.
A commitment to establish Great British Railways was made in May 2021 as part of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, focused on delivering sweeping reforms that create a truly passenger-focused railway. It will serve as a single, accountable public body responsible for running Britain’s railways. As a new organisation, with a new culture, focused on serving the interests of everyone in Britain, Great British Railways will need a new national headquarters.
York, home to the National Rail Museum will be attempting to bring the GBR HQ to their city.
Doncaster, Darlington, Barrow Swindon, Eastleigh and Milton Keynes have also expressed an interest.
The Secretary for State for Transport announced that a competition will take place to find a location for the headquarters outside of London.
Towns and cities outside of London have the opportunity to participate in the Great British Railways national headquarters selection process, which is being run by the Great British Railways Transition Team (GBRTT) on behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT).
The competition will seek to recognise places with a rich railway heritage, strong links to the national network and public support for the selected location, creating a great opportunity to promote communities as the proud home for the start of a new era in Britain’s railways.
The local authorities of towns or cities taking part in the competition will be responsible for submitting an Expression of Interest (EoI) as the first step of the selection process.
A public consultation vote on a shortlist of places will then be conducted as part of the competition to test public support. All the key expectations, dates and details regarding the competition are set out in the sections below.
This guidance has been produced by GBRTT to assist the towns or cities that wish to express their interest in applying for the national headquarters of Great British Railways.
The competition will consist of four stages that will enable GBRTT to find the most suitable candidate for the national headquarters.
Stage 1 – Expression of Interest deadline: 16 March 2022
Stage 2 – Shortlist announced: May 2022
Stage 3 – Ministerial visits to shortlisted places and a public vote: May 2022
Stage 4 – Headquarters’ location announced: Summer 2022
Great British Railways aims and objectives
The government unveiled its commitment in the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail to create a new public body, Great British Railways, which will own the infrastructure, receive the fare revenue, run and plan the network and set most fares and timetables.
Network Rail, the current infrastructure owner, will be absorbed into this new organisation, as will many people and functions from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) and the DfT. Great British Railways will own the railways across Great Britain and run them as an integrated system to achieve common outcomes in the public interest.
The new organisation will work closely with partners across the sector, including freight operators and suppliers, to help deliver a customer-focused rail system.
The Secretary of State for Transport has also set out the core goals that will define Great British Railways, including:
Changing the culture of the railways not simply creating a bigger version of Network Rail
Thinking like our 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
The national headquarters is expected to be home primarily to corporate functions, a number of network-wide capabilities, and meeting and collaboration spaces that enable people from across the regions and industry to come together.
The headquarters is expected to house a modest staff to undertake these activities. The headquarters needs to be in place by the time Great British Railways is established in the coming years.