Salford joins long list of bids for new Great British Railway headquarters

Salford City Council has today (April 20) announced that it is bidding for Salford to be the home of Great British Railways (GBR).

The council has submitted its bid to the Government via the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).

It proposes that the new home of GBR would be Embankment – a modern and sustainable office building complex in the city centre.

The council’s bid says that Salford is a city rooted in the history of rail and it believes there is no better city region than Greater Manchester for GBR’s headquarters, that would align with the Government’s levelling up ambitions.

Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, said: “Salford would be the perfect destination for the headquarters of Great British Railways.

“Not only are we vastly connected to this country’s railway history through figures such as George Bradshaw and the father of railways, George Stephenson, but we are a city that has always been at the forefront of travel. From the first horse-drawn carriages to the first steamboats, our history as Salfordians is rooted in advancing the way we get around.

“We are now a thriving digital city, one of the fastest growing in the region and developing a significant skills and media cluster to rival anywhere in Europe. Greater Manchester has also become one of Whitehall’s key outposts outside of London and is home to several key government departments who have brought decision making to our doorstep.”

He added: “However, whilst we continue to build a brighter future for our city, we remain home to communities in serious deprivation. The jobs, work opportunities and investment from GBR’s new HQ could be critical in helping us address the key disparities that we have in Salford.

“It would be the perfect example of the levelling up that this government is aiming to deliver for communities in the North West.”

Among the reasons Salford believes it would be the perfect fit for GBR are:

  • Embankment 100, the suggested location for the GBR headquarters is in walking distance from Manchester Victoria, which is at the centre of the North West’s rail network. Embankment was built on the site of the original Manchester Exchange station, which at one time, had Europe’s longest platform at 682m, accommodating three trains at once.
  • The city was the home of celebrated cartographer George Bradshaw, whose famous railways maps and timetables, Bradshaw’s Guide, made famous in Michael Portillo’s Great British Railways Journeys series on the BBC, was first published in Salford in 1839. Mr Bradshaw was born and grew up in the Pendleton area of the city.
  • It was in Salford where one of the greatest railway feats took place as George Stephenson, the ‘Father of Railways’ ran the legendary locomotive ‘Rocket’ through Salford during the historic Rainhill Trials in 1829. And it was also in Salford where William Huskisson MP, became the first railway victim when the aforementioned Rocket ran him over in a tragic accident which led to millions around the world becoming aware of the arrival of steam engines in 1830.
  • Stephenson also constructed the Grade I-listed River Irwell Railway Bridge that was central to the continuation of the line from Liverpool into Manchester and significantly advanced railway operations across the country.
  • Salford has a history of celebrating its rail history and in 2015, a locally led project from the Hamilton Davies Trust transformed Irlam Station back to how it looked in 1894, complete with a beautiful station house, café bistro and meeting space.
  • Salford is the 18th most deprived local authority in the country and has several communities just two miles away from the city centre which are in the top one per cent most deprived nationally. The unemployment rate (6.6%) and claims for Universal Credit (31,645) are still considerably higher than pre-pandemic levels. Its communities are in desperate need of the jobs, skills, training and investment that the arrival of GBR could bring to the city.
  • Despite this, Salford is also the fastest growing economy in the region, securing 15,000 additional jobs in the past five years and has newly registered 2,000 new businesses. The city has seen rapid growth in the office economy around centre, Media City, Salford Quays and in new locations such as Greengate.
  • Salford is a city that businesses are choosing to base themselves in and people are moving to routinely over other locations and this trend is only set to continue further as the city’s population expands.
  • Not only does Salford offer a space that GBR could move straight into, but it is also one of the most sustainable buildings in the city region, securing a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.
  • GBR would also join the other government organisations currently residing in Greater Manchester which are the Home Office, DCMS, HMRC, GCHQ, DWP, DFE and BEIS.

Salford City Council is working with organisations and partners across the city and the GMCA on the bid which was submitted to the Great British Railways Transition Team in March 2022, with the support of MIDAS – Manchester’s inward investment agency.

The shortlist for the headquarters will be announced in May 2022 and then a public vote will open with the winner expected to be announced later this summer.

More than 40 towns and cities have submitted bids to host GBR, including Barrow in Furness, Bolton, Carlisle, Carnforth, Crewe, Greater Manchester, Heywood, Liverpool, and Preston.

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