Derby confirmed as new HQ of Britain’s rail network

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<span>Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Derby is to become the new headquarters of Britain’s reformed railway, the government has confirmed.

As exclusively revealed by the Guardian on Monday, the Midlands city has been chosen to host the head office for Great British Railways.

The Department for Transport said Derby would “become the heart of Great Britain’s rail industry”, after beating five other shortlisted locations in the Midlands and northern England in a public vote and the government’s own assessment process.

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The transport secretary, Mark Harper, told MPs in a written statement on Tuesday: “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.”

He said other towns and cities would host “empowered regional GBR hubs” that would also support jobs around Britain.

Chris Poulter, the leader of Derby city council, said: “Rail heritage is at the heart of our city and for this to be recognised by government is a fantastic achievement. The investment we’ll see from this significant move will be huge, not only just for Derby but for levelling up across the whole of the wider east Midlands.”

A site within Derby has yet to be chosen. Among its many rail firms is the Alstom manufacturing site, formerly Bombardier, and trains have been built in the city since 1839.

Anit Chandarana, the lead director of the GBR transition team, said the selection of the HQ was an “important milestone on our journey to create a simpler and better railway”.

Plans for GBR were unveiled in 2021 after a long review into how rail was run – started in 2018 among increasing concerns including the mismanagement of work and schedules, and the collapse of franchising.

Speaking at a rail conference in London, Andrew Haines, the chief executive of Network Rail and leader of the nascent GBR, said the imminent move to a reformed railway was critical for passengers and taxpayers: “Decisions about track, trains, stations and timetables are not joined up … Without a guiding mind we will make the same mistakes again and again.”