Swindon on track to bid for Great British Railways headquarters

By Jessica Durston - 7 February 2022

CommunityHeritage
  • Brunel's Swindon legacy continues to be celebrated at Swindon's Steam Museum

    Brunel's Swindon legacy continues to be celebrated at Swindon's Steam Museum

Swindon Borough Council has signalled its intention to put forward a strong bid to the Government to become the new headquarters for Great British Railways.

An aerial view of Swindon's historic Railway Village and the town's former railway works

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps launched the competition to find a new home for the nation’s railways over the weekend.

The new location will be based outside London and bring high-skilled jobs to the winning location with Great British Railways (GBR) becoming the single, accountable body responsible for running Britain’s railways.

Locations across the country with strong historical links to the railway are encouraged to make the case for why they should be the new home of GBR.

The GBR transition team will shortlist the best applications in May, after which a public vote will help determine the winning location.

Applications will be measured against six criteria:

  • alignment to levelling up objectives
  • connected and easy to get to
  • opportunities for GBR
  • railway heritage and links to the network
  • value for money
  • public support

The new central headquarters will be the heart of the rail network and provide strategic direction for the running of GBR.

Swindon is already in a leading position thanks to its links with Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the Great Western Railway including the iconic Railway Village and Railway Works.

The council says the new HQ will help to capitalise on that heritage and build on the recent work to refurbish the Health Hydro, and bringing Brunel’s historic former Carriage Works back into use to create a knowledge economy cluster for the town.

Leader of the Council, Cllr David Renard, wrote to Mr Shapps back in October to promote the town and signal why it deserves to be top of the list.

Cllr Renard said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Swindon and we will make the strongest case possible to the Government.

“Swindon is synonymous with the railways. Brunel’s decision to choose Swindon as the home of the Great Western Railway means our railway heritage is part of the fabric of our town today.

“We not only have our hugely popular Steam museum, a major part of the railway works has been converted into the Swindon Designer Outlet, while our railway village and the historical buildings around it form an important part of our nationally significant Heritage Action Zone.

“We are also breathing new life into the Carriage Works to ensure our railway legacy lives on.

“Our location as a town is also a major selling point, being less than an hour away from London on the train and we have one of the most productive workforces in the country. Being home to the GBR would also give our town centre economy a huge boost.

“We have so much going for us and we will be doing everything we can to make sure we are on that shortlist for the public vote in May.”

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