Town centre regeneration

Great British Rail HQ Bid

Great british rail bid female worker image

Swindon’s bid to become home of Great British Railways

People and organisations across Swindon are backing the town’s bid to become the location for the HQ of Great British Railways (GBR) - the new body responsible for running Britain’s railways.

So far, 42 towns and cities have entered bids to the national competition launched by the Government in February. 

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About the competition

Britain’s railways are embarking on a major, once in a generation reform that will transform the way in which the sector works, bringing together track and train to deliver a customer-focused railway.

In February 2022, the Government launched a national competition to find a location outside London for the national headquarters of Great British Railways.

Swindon submitted a bid in March 2022, supported by over 25 businesses and organisations across the town.

Timetable

  • Stage 1 – Expression of Interest deadline: 16 March 2022
  • Stage 2 – Shortlist announced: May 2022
  • Stage 3 – Ministerial visits to shortlisted places and a public vote: May 2022
  • Stage 4 – Headquarters’ location announced: Summer 2022

If Swindon is shortlisted for the next stage of the completion, we will need the support of as many residents, local businesses and organisations to back the bid, and help ensure we are successful.

All bids will be measured against the following six key criteria:

  • The location must be aligned to the Government’s levelling up objectives
  • The location must be connected and easy to get to
  • The location must provide opportunities for GBR
  • The location must have railway heritage and links to the network
  • The location must be value for money
  • The location must have public support

Why Swindon?Image showing great british railway female engineer

Swindon is one of England’s most important historic railway towns. In the 1840s a greenfield site near the market town was transformed by the Great Western Railway (GWR). At its height, the GWR works in Swindon was one of the largest railway engineering complexes in the world.

Swindon is proud of its strong links to the railway, but is also focused on the future, and its potential to establish a national centre of excellence for the railway sector, building on the wealth of rail organisations and businesses already thriving here.

Locally, the University Technical College (UTC), New College Swindon and the Institute of Technology are all supporting more women and people from ethnic minority backgrounds into engineering and STEM subjects.

This impressive technical educational and training offer will grow the next generation of talent for the rail sector here in Swindon, boosting diversity and skills amongst the workforce.

Swindon’s ideal location, with extensive GWR routes, makes it a ‘hub’ location for the South West.

Swindon is also home to multiple national and international Headquarters, with strong links to regional offices across the UK.

Swindon’s superb location, combined with our celebrated workforce, our dynamic businesses, our rail institutions, and seven national UKRI departments, will provide the strongest foundation for GBR to flourish.

What’s in it for Swindon?Image showing great british railway girl on train image

We are delivering an ambitious ‘heritage led’ regeneration plan to realise the potential of Swindon through embracing our railway heritage.

The chosen location for the HQ lies at the heart of Swindon centre and would turbocharge our work to rejuvenate the railway heritage quarter, connecting the railway of the past to the industry’s exciting future.

The Swindon Town Deal is delivering projects that use our railway heritage to recognise Swindon as a place of historic interest and encourage a strong sense of identity. The GBR Headquarters will spearhead this, once again placing Swindon at the heart of the railways.

Swindon is a hub location for two rail routes serving the South West and Wales. By strengthening Swindon as a Railway Hub, the HQ will bring new opportunity not just to Swindon, but to the entire region.

While Swindon does have one of the country’s most productive workforces, it does also have high levels of deprivation in a number of our communities and a significant skills gap.

While we are taking steps to change that, being chosen as the location for the GBR headquarters would supercharge our efforts.

The GBR headquarters would also attract a wide range of new visitors and workers to the town, increasing footfall in the surrounding areas, and encouraging more people to visit, live and work in Swindon.

How you can get involved?

Over a thousand people have expressed their support for Swindon’s bid. Some of the comments received are shown below:

  • “It’s the home of the GWR. It was Brunel’s choice. If it was good enough for him it is good enough! Plain and simple.”
  • “Swindon has an amazing heritage in the railway industry, it is what made Swindon what it is today. It would be fitting to take this to the future as well.”
  • “Swindon is a railway town. Has been for all of my lifetime.”

You can add your support by taking a moment to answer the survey question below:

GBR HQ survey question

If Swindon is shortlisted in the next stage of the completion in May, a public vote will open for people to choose where they think the HQ location should be.

When an announcement is made in May, we will provide an update on Swindon’s bid, and if successful, will share information about how you can vote for Swindon and encourage others to vote too.

If you would like to help publicly promote Swindon’s bid, we’d welcome your support.

Please email communications@swindon.gov.uk if you’d like to offer your help in raising awareness and engaging local people.

Local organisations backing the bid

Endorsements have come in from businesses, community groups and organisations in the Swindon area and beyond.

These include the following:

MPs

  • Robert Buckland
  • Justin Tomlinson
  • Danny Kruger, Member of Parliament for Pewsey and Great Bedwyn
  • Michelle Donnelan, Member of Parliament for Chippenham
  • Andrew Murrison

Organisations

  • Arts Council
  • Business West
  • Costain Ltd
  • Cotswold District Council
  • Federation of Small Businesses (Somerset & Wiltshire)
  • Friends of the Railway Path
  • Great Western Hospitals NHS FT
  • ICast  (Innovation Centre for Applied Sustainable Technologies)
  • InSwindon
  • Mayor of Swindon
  • Mechanics Institute Trust
  • New College Swindon
  • Panattoni
  • Recovery Tree Charity
  • Royal Agricultural University
  • SetSquared
  • Swindon and Wiltshire Institute of Technology
  • Swindon Civic Voice
  • Swindon Chamber of Commerce
  • Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce Group
  • The Swindon Society
  • Voluntary Action Swindon
  • University of Bath
  • University Technical College Swindon
  • Western Gateway
  • Wiltshire Council
  • Wiltshire Police Service
  • Wiltshire and Swindon Local Enterprise Partnership

The support for the bid is wide ranging, reflecting Swindon’s deep connections with the railways. A selection of quotations demonstrating the depth of Swindon’s railway connections are provided below:

  • 'The genesis of the NHS was the GWR Medical Fund and I have always been proud of that aspect of Swindon history in particular' - Kevin McNamara, Chief Executive, Great Western Hospitals NHS FT
  • Swindon has a long historic association with railway engineering and would make a wholly appropriate location for the new HQ' - Les Durrant, President, Swindon Chamber of Commerce
  • 'Swindon simply is the railways, and I can’t think of any other home for these new Head Quarters which would be more apt or a home where its residents would be prouder to host it' - Pam Webb, CEO, Voluntary Action Swindon

Further information

You may find further useful information about the GWR on our Heritage Action Zone webpages.

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