Travel and transport

York’s Great British Railways bid

In February 2022, the Department for Transport announced a competition to find the first headquarters of Great British Railways (GBR).

The competition seeks bids from towns and cities with:

  • a rich railway history
  • strong links to the rail network

The aim is for the new GBR headquarters to take pride of place at the heart of a new era for Britain’s railways.

Since that announcement, along with North Yorkshire County Council and York and North Yorkshire Local Economic Partnership, and following extensive consultation with city and regional partners and rail leaders, we've submitted York’s bid to be the home of the headquarters of GBR.


Why York should be the home of GBR

The bid includes an extensive list of reasons why York would make the best home for the headquarters of GBR.

A catalyst for levelling up the north

Nearly 700 of the country’s most deprived communities are within an hour of York. A globally competitive York hub can be a key driver in transforming their futures. The City of York will partner with academic, research and industry expertise across the north to innovate, improve delivery and transform the rail industry, providing well-paid jobs not just in York, but across the north.

The York hub will inspire the next generation of northern-based rail professionals, with school trips and programmes supported by the Railway Museum and the surrounding rail industry.

There is no better place to achieve the government’s Levelling Up ambitions, helping to lift Yorkshire’s strongest economy into the top 25% of UK cities, providing opportunities to millions of people, businesses and communities across Yorkshire and the north east.

York Central presents a unique opportunity to create Britain’s biggest rail cluster. It is the largest city centre brownfield site in England and already has Enterprise Zone Status and outline planning permission for 2,500 homes and 1 million square feet of 'Grade A' offices. Network Rail are already a key landowner in the site, which also includes the £60 million expansion of the Railway Museum.

10% of the most deprived areas in the UK are within only an hour's train travel of York, with our travel-to-work area encompassing West, South, North and East Yorkshire, Teesside and the north east. Placing GBR in York, immediately next to the railway station unlocks huge private sector investment and economic opportunity across the north east.

A great British home for Great British Railways

York is at the very heart of the UK and its rail network - an equal distance between London and Edinburgh with excellent connectivity east and west, north and south. The Tees Valley, County Durham, the Yorkshire Coast, West, North and South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester are all within touching distance. That provides unrivalled scope for GBR and the rail industry to create opportunities for the people, businesses and universities of the north.

Equidistant from London and Edinburgh, locating GBR in York would help to strengthen the ties between England and Scotland, as highlighted by the Union Connectivity Review.

Our railway heritage is unrivalled. York is the most important location outside of London for the running of the railways. We are the place that not only built the trains and carriages, but also the rail networks, business models, management expertise and innovation. We are home to the Railway Museum, and to 100 rail companies and 5,500 rail jobs focussed on the operation and development of the network, with a significant private sector cluster providing services key to GBR’s mission.

Ready now

York is ready now for GBR HQ. The proposed main location is on a city centre brownfield site where Network Rail is already a major partner and landowner. Other possible sites include the Hudson Quarter, George Stephenson House, and West Offices (built in 1841 as one of the first railway stations within a city) and all are available to provide flexible office accommodation immediately.

Our existing rail workforce is young, highly skilled and diverse, with expertise across rolling stock, operations, management, engineering, planning and the digital future for rail. This, as well as local and regional academic research, will provide GBR with current and future, northern talent and innovation.

Regularly topping best place to live polls with outstanding childcare and education, people want to come to York, whether to work, to study or for leisure.

A future global leader in rail

Our extensive rail heritage, the Railway Museum, a vibrant rail industry ecosystem, and leading rail innovations all make York not just an important part of our nation’s history, but potentially the next global leader in rail. York will become a global rail powerhouse if it becomes home to GBR HQ.

Within 20 minutes of central York you can reach 3 leading research universities, including Leeds’ High Speed Rail Institute and York’s Institute of Safe Autonomy. York is also home to Network Rail Eastern Route and the head office of LNER. The arrival of GBR HQ in York will enable the essential critical mass needed to truly level up our region and establish York as a globally competitive city for rail excellence.

In York, we are committed to developing an internationally renowned rail skills centre of excellence. York’s rail businesses are working with us to develop their workforce including social mobility. The White Rose University cluster includes significant rail expertise such as the University of York’s Institute for Safe Autonomy, while York is already home to Network Rail’s operating and training centre, controlling train operations across the north east of England.

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The competition process

In February 2022 the Department for Transport announced the GBR competition to find a home for a headquarters of the country’s new public body for the railways.

Locations across the country with strong historical links to the railway were encouraged to make the case for why they should be the new home set against 6 criteria:

  1. Alignment to Levelling Up objectives
  2. Connected, and easy to get to
  3. Opportunities for Great British Railways
  4. Railway heritage and links to the network
  5. Value for money
  6. Public support

The deadline for towns and cities to submit their interest was 16 March 2022. The competition has attracted 42 towns and cities to send in bids, all hoping to welcome GBR HQ to their location.

The shortlist will be announced in May 2022 and the public vote will then open. The winner is expected to be announced in Summer 2022.

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Partnership working

Since the government announced that it was looking for a home for GBR the council has worked with a wide range of partners across the city and county to submit the strongest possible bid.

The partners for the York’s Great British Railways bid include:

Our bid is a bid for Yorkshire and demonstrates the benefits that this would bring to the wider region as well as the city of York.

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Show your support for York’s bid

We want everybody who loves York and loves railways, to get behind the GBR bid, to bring jobs and investment to the area. Your support will make all the difference.

There are a number of ways you can help:

Sign up for the latest updates on York's bid

  • if you’ve got a story about rail, want to show your love of York, or are keen to show your support you can share messages on social media
  • use the hashtags #DestinationGBR, #YorkGBRHQ, and #yes2York
  • share details of the bid through your networks
  • when the time comes, vote for York in the competition, and encourage colleagues, friends and family to do so too!

Supporter of York's bid to be the home of GBR Headquarters

Pictured (left to right), supporters of York's bid to be the location of Great British Railways' headquarters:

Cllr Keith Aspden of City of York Council, Professor Miles Elsden of University of York, Andrew Digwood of West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, Sarah Loftus of Make It York, Helen Simpson of York and North Yorkshire LEP, Sarah Czarnecki of Hospitality Association York, Stephen Lusty of York Civic Trust, Rob Hickey of York St John University, David Dickson of York and North Yorkshire LEP, and Andrew Lowson of York BID.

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Latest Great British Railways bid news

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