MPs call for new rail body to have York HQ

MPs have urged ministers to build a base for new rail infrastructure operator Great British Railways in York – and to back it with investment.

Labour and Co-operative MP Rachael Maskell insisted the new organisation’s headquarters had to be in the Yorkshire city to realise the full economic benefits of its formation.

The government unveiled plans last year to replace Network Rail with Great British Railways from 2023. A competition was launched to find the best place to locate its central functions, with a shortlist due to be announced next month.

Leading a parliamentary debate on the future of rail, Maskell banged the drum for a bid submitted by City of York Council, North Yorkshire County Council and the York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership to create the new rail operations base in the Yorkshire City.

The bid aims to create a rail technology hub within the sprawling York Central development, which is being brought forward in partnership with Network Rail and includes a £60m expansion of the Railway Museum. York’s Institute of Safe Autonomy and the High Speed Rail Institute in Leeds are nearby.

Maskell, MP for York Central, said in parliament on Tuesday afternoon: “Consolidation and intersection with other transport and energy technologies is essential if Britain is to once again lead a transport revolution – and it is vital that government invests in this unique, global rail super-cluster.”

She added: “When it comes to Levelling Up, while consolidation of York’s rail cluster will level up our city […] it is what York’s rail cluster can deliver for levelling up across the country that excites our city the most.

“We believe this can only be achieved if Great British Railways is anchored in York, and investment in the sector’s research and development powers this opportunity.”

Maskell claimed that bringing the body to the city would “anchor Britain’s rail future, ignite Britain’s rail ambition and deliver the next chapter of our great British railways revolution”.

Several Yorkshire MPs backed Maskell’s comments at the debate.

Other bids to host the new HQ are understood to have come from a number of locations, including Derby, Peterborough, St Helens, Crewe and Carlisle. A final decision is expected this summer, following a non-binding public vote.

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