Great British Railways delay makes HQ bidders unhappy

Rail Freight image GBRTTSource Great British Railways Transition Team

Last week, the UK transport minister, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, admitted that the legislation to introduce the new over-arching railway management agency, Great British Railways, would be delayed. She told the formidable cross-party Transport Select Committee that the bill would not be introduced in this session of parliament. Therefore the bill could not go through the required stages of reading in both houses of the British parliament. It will not now be debated until at least May next year, suggesting that GBR will be delayed by at least a year and may even be abandoned.

Reaction to the news of the delayed legislation to introduce Great British Railways has been met with disappointment, dismay and disdain. Political rivals have derided the delay as further evidence of the disarray in the ruling Conservative party. Railway industry staff have been left to wonder if their jobs will be relocated, if those posts will be secure, or if they will even exist at all.

Six shortlisted locations

A highly publicised and often mocked competition to find a headquarters location for the new GBR was fronted by the former transport secretary, Grant Shapps – who was since sacked to the back benches, only to make a spectacular rebound into the position of Home Secretary, before being moved to Business Secretary after about a week. The competition attracted almost fifty serious bids from communities around England, Scotland and Wales. The six shortlisted locations have been subject to a public vote – the result of which has not yet been revealed.

Doncaster station (Image Doncaster Town Council)

There is considerable anger among those communities, all of which have spent scarce funds on promoting their cases. Birmingham, Crewe, Derby, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Doncaster and York all have high hopes but have been left in limbo. They all also have, not surpassingly, expressed degrees of concern. “York has already made a clear and compelling case to be the new National Headquarters for Great British Railways”, said the leader of the local authority there, Keith Aspden. “The sheer strength of our bid demonstrates what an exciting and important opportunity the new GBR headquarters represents.”

Ask the transport secretary to make a statement

Within the industry, the response has been equally nonplussed. “It’s disappointing to learn that the Transport Bill is being postponed”, said Darren Caplan of the Railway Industry Association. “As the government itself has said, the railway needs a clear strategic direction, and GBR was to be the mechanism to deliver this. This delay will lead to a hiatus in work, hitting confidence and certainty in what are already difficult economic circumstances.”

Gathering dust in the office. One bidder for the headquarters of GBR seems somewhat disheartened (image Simon Walton)

Rachael Maskell is a member of parliament for York. She sits on the socialist benches with the Labour party and is a political adversary of the transport secretary. She has already made clear her support for the establishment of GBR in her constituency. “Bringing the headquarters of Great British Railways to York will level up not only York and the region but the country and the opportunities for people across the nation. Will the Leader of the House ask the Transport Secretary to make a statement to the House on the purpose of the popular vote in awarding the operational headquarters of Great British Railways?”

An answer to that question may well have to wait, as Britain will have yet another prime minister by the end of the week, and there could be a further cabinet reshuffle. Whomever might be in the Department for Transport hot seat at 55 Horseferry Road may be subject to a popularity vote of their own.

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Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

1 comment op “Great British Railways delay makes HQ bidders unhappy”

bönström bönström|25.10.22|13:01

A debate is needed!
(Brexit, a “back to basics”, has so far not been duly followed by a UK goal.)
Regrettably, railways, as seriously retarded, as well was/is part of reason behind Brexit…
(Within EU, shortcomings of railways – is mere excuse for extras imposed upon the single high quality alternative device available…)
Hopefully UK will find and decide Goal of infrastructure, now top priority…
(Suggested is that goal will be for benefitting of the unique UK Advantage, nearness to ports.)

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