Derby is home of the largest network of rail companies in the world, according to Derby South MP Dame Margaret Becket. And that is why she is among 22 cross-party East Midlands MPs backing Derby’s bid to be the home of the new Great British Rail (GBR) headquarters.
Mrs Becket was speaking during an event to mark Derby submitting its bid for the public body which will be responsible for running Britain’s railways, owning the infrastructure, collecting fare revenue, running and planning the network, and setting most fares and timetables.
The event took place at the House of Commons and was hosted by the Midlands Rail Forum, which has its home in Derby and attended by the region’s MPs and other rail experts from the city.
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Mrs Becket said: “The Derby of today and tomorrow is a transport hub steeped in contributing to the transport of the future – building, operating and maintaining the transport of the future is part of Derby’s raison d’être.”
Bringing GBR to Derby would help cement the city’s already firm grip on the UK rail industry – housing train maker Alstom and with 11,000 people already employed on varying parts of the rail supply chain. The initial bid had to be submitted by March 16 and outlines why the Derby would be a good fit for the new headquarters, as well as promoting its 180 years of rail history.
Centred around Derby, it covers every aspect of railway building, maintenance and operation. Uniquely, Derby is home to major players in the automotive and aviation industry including Rolls Royce and Toyota, making it uniquely placed for GBR to benefit from cross-sector collaboration and a highly skilled workforce.
The bid has the backing of all three counties, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire and Ben Bradley MP for Mansfield said: “Derby is the obvious place to be the home of GBR, with its historic rail connections 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. The whole region is backing Derby.
“With four new HS2 stations, including Derby, and billions of new rail investment coming to our region, the new hub of Great British Railways must be in the East Midlands. It fits perfectly with our plans to boost investment and infrastructure by working together across the region, and with new powers related to rail set to be handed down to our area from Government. GBR should come to Derby.”
Amanda Solloway, MP for Derby North said: “What truly makes our bid unique is the vital importance that our tremendously skilled workforce continues to play in underpinning our national industry.
“More than two thirds of the UK’s rollingstock is supported from the Litchurch Lane site in Derby alone. Together with the significant work going on locally to explore the potential of AI and rail decarbonisation, Derby possesses an exceptional combination of representing the past, present and future of the rail network and our national rail industry.”
Lillian Greenwood, MP for Nottingham South, said: “The East Midlands has the greatest concentration of rail engineering businesses in the world, and Derby is the perfect choice to be the home of Great British Railways.”
And Chesterfield MP, Toby Perkins, has shown his support by writing to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to suggest Derby as “the perfect place as the home of railways”.
Mr Perkins said: “Derby’s geographic location and transport links are perfectly situated at the heart of the country’s rail network and would provide the ideal setting for linking together the north and south of Britain.
“Locating the new HQ in Derby would be very beneficial for the Great British Railways and would bring in much needed investment and skilled jobs to the city, which would benefit the whole of Derbyshire and the East Midlands region.”
Councillor Chris Poulter, leader of Derby City Council which is heading up the bid, said: “Rail is in the blood of many generations of people in Derby, who are naturally proud of our rich and deep-rooted rail heritage.
“As a city we’re looking towards the future of the sector and this is where Derby can excel. We believe we have a very strong and compelling case for Derby to be the home for the first national headquarters of Great British Railways.
“I would like to thank key partners from across the region for supporting us with our submission and for helping back our bid. Derby currently has a low proportion of Government jobs, the lowest for a city of its size in the UK.”
The timeline for the competition is:
Stage 1 – expression of interest by March 16
Stage 2 – Shortlist announced May 2022
Stage 3 – Ministerial visits to shortlisted places and a public vote May 2022
Stage 4 – Location announced summer 2022.