Local MP Mary Kelly Foy has called on her constituency, the City of Durham, to bid to host the head office of the upcoming Great British Railways (GBR).
Ms Foy called Durham an “ideal location” for the headquarters of GBR, bringing the national rail office to the North East and tapped into the region’s local railway heritage.
Urging Durham County Council to submit a bid, the host city for the headquarters of GBR will be decided following a national competition – announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps – with bidding local authorities having until March 16, 2022, to lodge their interest.
The Department for Transport (DfT) will then announce a shortlist in May, with the winning location to be announced over the summer.
GBR is the newly-created national body which will oversee the operational delivery of the railway, taking over the responsibilities of Network Rail, as well as additional aspects of rail transport, from 2023.
The new state-owned public body will look to improve rail services by unifying the ownership of the rail infrastructure, fares, timetables and networking planning under a single roof, with a single point of operational accountability.
The focus will be on improving passenger experience and reliability, as well as resiliency across the network.
In an open letter to the county council’s senior leadership team, Ms Foy highlighted the site of the existing County Hall, previously earmarked for redevelopment, as an ideal location for the new office, bringing with it up to 500 jobs.
Speaking to the local Darlington and Stockton Times, she said: “Durham would be an ideal location for the new Great British Railways headquarters.
“We have a proud railway heritage in Durham and anyone who has ever arrived in the city over the viaduct and taken in the unobstructed views of the castle and cathedral, knows Durham is one of the crown jewels of our railways.
“While we are proud of our heritage, we must be look to the future and seek to attract investment and jobs.”
In response, county council leader Amanda Hopgood, added: “We are really keen to submit our bid for the Great British Railway headquarters and have been working on proposals in anticipation of the Government’s announcement.
“With our county’s rich railway heritage, multi-billion-pound investment programme, and our current bid to become UK City of Culture 2025, County Durham already has a lot to offer to make it the ideal location for a nationally-significant railway centre.
“While there are obvious advantages to bid for the headquarters to be in Durham City, we are working on our expression of interest and will be assessing all possible sites to find the perfect location that best suits our county.
“We understand that part of the process will involve demonstrating public support, so we welcome everyone’s backing and ask they keep getting behind us as we work on what we hope will be a successful bid to bring this fantastic opportunity to the county.”