Transport Secretary Grant Shapps recently announced a bidding process for towns and cities to apply for GBR’s new headquarters to be stationed there.
Great British Railways is a planned state-owned public body that will oversee rail transport across the country from 2023.
Bids submitted and those considering a proposal include Doncaster, York, Crewe, Derby, Bradford, Wolverhampton and Darlington.
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Doncaster, the birthplace of the Mallard and Flying Scotsman locomotives, has been pitched as the ideal location for the headquarters as the competition looks to recognise towns and cities with a rich railway history that are strongly linked to the network.
Mayor Ros Jones said Doncaster’s rich railway heritage, a central location and excellent rail links were just some of the reasons why the borough should be chosen.
The bid is backed by politicians from both Labour and the Conservative parties as well as the private sector.
Confirming that Doncaster will bid to become home to the new HQ,Mayor Ros Jones said: “I believe that Doncaster is best placed to bring rail back to the people it serves.
“With an extensive rail history of over 150 years of engineering excellence in the rail sector, Doncaster is a national hub for rail industry manufacturing and infrastructure. We have world class rail and engineering education and training facilities here and a skilled workforce, bringing together the hearts, hands and minds of the Great British Railway.
“Our geographic location and transport links are perfectly situated at the heart of the British rail network servicing a massive area of the country. Doncaster also has one of the best transport and logistics hubs in England, an international airport that has huge expansion capacity and potential and is located near to i-Port hubs.
“Our northern location makes Doncaster a prime spot to become a linchpin for Government plans on levelling up, improving opportunities for people here in innovative, high wage, high productivity industries. We have high ambitions here in Doncaster and a track record for getting on and getting things done which is just what this industry needs.”
The bid sets out four main points as to why the new HQ should be based in Doncaster
Rail industry powerhouse
Doncaster’s extensive rail industry cluster and associated supply chain, including rail operations, power supply and distribution, traction, rolling stock and advanced manufacturing and infrastructure means that businesses based in Doncaster benefit from easy access to the rail industry.
With over 50 rail companies and 8,000 rail employees, Doncaster ‘has an unrivalled combination’ of location, established supply chain, skilled workforce and world-class training facilities.
Doncaster occupies a prime position on the rail network in terms of daily commute times (York 20 mins, Leeds 30 mins, Sheffield 22 mins, Newcastle 80 mins, London 90 mins) providing the opportunity to expand the recruitment base for the new HQ, work with other rail hubs and help stimulate local and regional skills and employment.
State-of-the-art education and training
Doncaster has a state-of-the-art rail college campus. The National College for Advanced Transport and Infrastructure, in partnership with the University of Birmingham, is ‘producing a highly skilled new generation of professionals to lead the UK’s future rail, transport and infrastructure workforce’.
Doncaster has well established education and skills pathways and assets for rail engineering and supply chain skills with engineering included at one of the Centres of Excellence under its University City.
Doncaster is delivering Engineering T-Levels through Doncaster College and its new UTC, with pathways to rail based degrees, apprenticeships and employment offering rail as an attractive career to increase technical based jobs in Doncaster and the region.
Rich rail history
Doncaster is home of the historic Doncaster Plant Works, a locomotive and carriage works for the Great Northern Railway Company which began at two sites in Doncaster in 1853 and in 1889.
Among the locomotives the works produced were the Stirling Singles, the Ivatt Atlantics and the Gresley Pacifics, including the world-famous Flying Scotsman built in 1923 and the Mallard built in Doncaster in 1938.
Doncaster’s new Rail Heritage Centre is the centrepiece of the iconic Danum Gallery, Library and Museum which opened in 2021. The centre houses the Doncaster-built Green Arrow and No. 251 locomotives and exhibits memorabilia from the extensive Doncaster Grammar School Railway Collection.
South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis is also backing the bid and said Doncaster’s rich heritage made it an ‘ideal site’.
“The government has pledged to ‘Level Up’ our communities, and building the new home for the railways in Doncaster would bring much needed jobs and investment to South Yorkshire,” he said.
On Doncaster Council’s announcement to bid, Conservative MP for Don Valley, Nick Fletcher said: “Doncaster is a proud railway town with a vibrant, growing economy. We built the Mallard here and the Flying Scotsman too, as well as many other trains.
“One of Doncaster’s predecessor MPs, Sir Edmund Beckett, is credited with developing the railways and bringing them to Doncaster.
“I fully support Doncaster Council applying to be the home of Great British Railways. Bringing the railways back home to Doncaster would fit into our history.
“Doncaster’s local economy is buzzing with talent and we are ready to take advantage of this exciting opportunity. I think Doncaster has a strong case which I will champion in Westminster. Let’s get on with the job and make it happen.”
Labour Doncaster Central MP Dame Rosie Winterton added: “It is fantastic news that Doncaster Council is to bid to become the home of the new Great British Railways HQ.
“Doncaster has such a rich rail history, it was only recently that I spoke at a dedication to Joseph Duddington, the unbeaten world record holder as the driver of the fastest steam locomotive, the Mallard.
“Joe was born in Doncaster, lived in Doncaster and laid to rest in Hyde Park Cemetery. Joe’s story really shows how Doncaster is steeped in rail history, from the many people who have and continue to work on our railways to our brilliant manufacturing and infrastructure.
“It is also right to note out exceptional transport links, as Mayor Jones has done, we are ideally located for such a HQ and I will be lending my full support to this bid at every point – we should go full steam ahead.”
Ed Miliband MP said: “Doncaster is a railway town and would be the rightful HQ of British Railways.
“The Council and everyone involved in this bid has my full support.
“As the MP for Doncaster North, the next stop is reopening Askern railway station, which would be great for the community and help protect the environment by offering people a great public transport alternative.”