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Newcastle announces bid to bring Great British Railways headquarters to the city

March 16, 2022

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Pattern Shop engine hall 3 1902
Credit: McDowell Trust

Newcastle City Council is bidding to bring the new Great British Railways Headquarters to the region. 

Britain’s railways are embarking on a major, once-in-a-generation reform and the new public body, Great British Railways (GBR) will integrate the railways, owning the infrastructure, collecting fare revenue, running, and planning the network, and setting most fares and timetables. 

The bid to locate the headquarters here in the region is being led by Invest Newcastle, part of the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative (NGI) and is the city’s submission to a competition, launched by the government, to find a location for the GBR headquarters outside of London. 

The competition will seek to recognise places with a rich railway heritage, strong links to the national network and public support for the selected location, creating a great opportunity to promote communities as the proud home for the start of a new era in Britain’s railways. 

Newcastle’s ‘Expression of Interest’ in bringing the headquarters to the region is now being finalised, ready for submission by the 16 March deadline. 

Sam Cassidy, Investment Manager at Invest Newcastle is leading on the project: “Our bid is robust, and we’ve identified specific sites within the city for Great British Railways to locate its headquarters. If our bid is successful, the establishment of the headquarters in the city would bring with it a significant number of jobs that will benefit the whole region. 

“Sites at Stephenson Quarter and Forth Goods Yard are perfectly aligned to GBR requirements, whilst they also provide strong links to railway heritage. There is significant historical relevance and linkage between Newcastle and the railways, with the Stephenson Quarter site in fact the location of the north east railway pioneer Robert Stephenson’s company at the outset of the railway industry in Britain.” 

Leader of Newcastle City Council, Cllr Nick Forbes, said: “The North East was the birthplace of the railways – we sent locomotives all over the world from the Pattern Shop on Stephenson Quarter so what better place to locate the headquarters of Great British Railways? 

“This would create hundreds of new jobs and attract all kinds of spin-off businesses breathing life into an under-used part of the city centre and giving it a bright new future with a welcome boost for the local economy.  

“Securing this national investment for Newcastle would be great for the region, bringing good quality jobs to the North East. With Invest Newcastle we are working hard to try and bring this home.” 

Mayor Jamie Driscoll (North of Tyne Combined Authority) has also welcomed the move to bring the headquarters to the region: “This would be a symbolic homecoming and a fantastic opportunity to create new jobs. The North East was once the home of the locomotive – it should be again.” 

Across Newcastle business leaders are also voicing their support and getting behind the bid being submitted by Invest Newcastle. 

Newcastle College’s one of a kind Rail and Civil Engineering Academy is renowned for delivering some of the UK’s most true to life training in the rail and civil engineering sector and NCG Chief Executive, Liz Bromley said: 

“NCG wholly supports the bid for the GBR HQ to be in our city. We have ambition, and a regeneration scheme as well as the critical asset of a fantastic training facility for Great British Railways to meet skills demands in a changing future for transport. 

“The Levelling Up White Paper provides the blueprint for both physical and intangible capitals to be expanded in the North East; Newcastle’s confident social capital, evidenced by truly place-based collaboration, underpins this bid. It is absolutely the time to move power, resource, and influence from the South to the North, and the Newcastle bid builds on a city transformation that is already underway.  

“The GBR HQ will be the catalyst for further regeneration and investment at the historic Stephenson Quarter site, while the physical presence of the HQ will evidence the government’s commitment to placing the heart and strategic leadership of a large national institution in the North East.” 

Mark Thompson Managing Partner at Ryder Architecture welcomed the bid: “It is wholly appropriate and fitting that Newcastle should become the long-term home for Great British Railways some 200 years on from the invention of steam rail. 

 This would be fantastic testament to Newcastle’s place in the nation’s industrial heritage at a time when the region is leading the way again in the advent of renewable energies. With excellent rail connections north to Scotland and south to London, Newcastle is ideally placed as a demonstration of the government’s commitment to levelling up.” 

The expression of interest being submitted by Invest Newcastle is the first stage in the selection process that will run until the summer when the winning location will be announced. 

The competition to find the most suitable candidate for the headquarters consists of a further three stages, with the shortlisted locations being announced in May; this will be followed by Ministerial visits to those locations and a public vote will then be conducted as part of the competition to test public support. The location for the Great British Railways headquarters will be announced in the summer. 

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