Upset as Doncaster loses out as Derby announced as Great British Railways HQ
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The new public body will own the rail infrastructure, procure passenger services and set most fares and timetables.
The news has been met with disappointment and frustration from local business bosses and civic leaders.
Despite meeting all of the government’s specified criteria, it was announced this morning that Doncaster had not been selected.
A spokesman for Doncaster Chamber said: “This naturally comes as disappointing news to South Yorkshire’s bid team — comprised of Doncaster Council, the Chamber of Commerce, rail businesses, and various partners —all of whom invested a great deal of time and effort into creating a compelling bid and campaigning for GBR to come to the North.
“For GBR to get up and running, a suitable base of operations had to be identified first. As part of its levelling up agenda, the government mandated that this headquarters must be situated somewhere outside of London and, so that they could determine the overall best candidate, opened a competitive bidding process in early 2022.
Doncaster was shortlisted from 42 expressions of interest.
The spokesman added: “Now, after multiple delays and an extended period of uncertainty, during which the future of GBR itself was called into question, the government has finally made its decision public. Unfortunately for South Yorkshire, the Great British Railways HQ will be located in Derby.”
Reacting to the decision, Dan Fell, Chief Executive of Doncaster Chamber, said: “It is dismaying to learn that Doncaster has been passed over for this opportunity, considering that our city demonstrably met every piece of criteria outlined by the government.
“For over a century, rail has always been an inseparable part of our DNA. The iconic Mallard and Flying Scotsman locomotives were built right on our very doorstep and today many key suppliers within the rail industry are based here in South Yorkshire.
“Not to mention, our region has got its act together when it comes to creating a skilled pipeline of future rail industry workers, thanks to specialist education providers like Doncaster University Technical College (UTC).
“For these reasons and many more, I believe that we were the clear right choice to host GBR. I lament the fact that government did not recognise this but also lament the fact that, as a region, we perhaps did not do quite enough to present an unassailable case to them.
“It would be easy to blame this decision on politics and that will, no doubt, have been a factor. However, local and regional partners — inclusive of the Chamber — also need to look themselves in the mirror and ask what we might have done better. Too many things are not going Doncaster and South Yorkshire’s way at present, and we need to forensically understand why that is.
“That said, our region did fight hard for this and put significant resources into the campaign. It is a shame that — in common with previous government-instigated competitions, such as Free Ports — that this effort has been largely abortive. We can only hope that, in the future, the government will not continue to leave its important decision-making up to resource-sapping competitions like this.
“While we may have missed out on this particular bid, it is important to remember that there are still other exciting opportunities on the horizon that we must seize. Looking ahead to the future, we will be campaigning for the establishment of a second UTC in Doncaster, after the first was such a resounding success, lobbying for a new hospital, and looking for other ways to drive growth in our region.
“Not to mention, it is imperative that we persist in the ongoing fight for Doncaster Sheffield Airport. If the government is truly serious about its commitment to levelling up, then backing these key projects would be a good way to compensate for overlooking South Yorkshire today.”
Transport Secretary Mark Harper, said: "Derby will become the heart of Great Britain's rail industry, bringing together track and train, as well as revenue and cost.
"This means we will finally treat the railway as the whole system it should be rather than a web of disparate interests that it's become."
Last week, Mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones was hopeful of the HQ coming to Doncaster and said: “Since we put in our bid, Doncaster has continued to grow and we are now officially a city. Our tenacity and drive for the City of Doncaster and our region to become the hub of Britain’s railways has remained steadfast.
“I do hope the right decision is made before Easter and that South Yorkshire and the North can be proud to drive forward a new era for the sector, as the home of Great British Railways.”