Government plays down reports GBR and Derby HQ will be scrapped
The Government is playing down national newspaper reports that the formation of Great British Railways (GBR) could be scrapped - just weeks after Derby was named as the home of the new headquarters of the body. GBR is supposed to be in charge of a restructured railway, replacing Network Rail and overseeing the infrastructure as well as tickets and timetabling.
After a long selection process, Derby beat off competition from five other well-known historic rail centres and a transition team has been starting work to bring the headquarters to the city. It is unlikely that any change of heart will be well-received in Derby.
A report in The Times suggests that the Government has "quietly scrapped" plans for GBR and that it won’t feature in the upcoming King’s Speech in autumn, which means that the all-important legislation needed to transfer control to GBR will potentially not find time to be approved in Parliament before the next General Election, due at the very latest by January 28, 2025.
The announcement of who had won the bid to host the GBR headquarters was originally delayed from last autumn to the end of March this year because of the upheaval over the position of Prime Minister. The Times is suggesting that the railways are way down on the priority list of PM Rishi Sunak and was the idea of former PM Boris Johnson.
Not being prepared to comment on the content of the King's Speech - a date for which is not yet known but it has usually taken place in May - a spokesman for the Department for Transport (DfT) said: "The Government remains fully committed to reforming our railways and will introduce legislation as soon as Parliamentary time allows, having already taken numerous steps towards reform."
It appears that the work of the transition team is not being wound down as suggested nationally and the response to rail reform legislation is still on track to be published by the summer and, according to the DfT, the idea of bringing track and train together under GBR is still going ahead.
But the Times says its sources believe a shadow GBR will now be created, which will only have a fraction of the powers of then-PM Boris Johnson’s original blueprint.
It is unlikely that in Derby any watering down or scrapping of GBR will be allowed to happen quietly. It has been reported that Mid Derbyshire MP Pauline Latham, who championed Derby for the headquarters almost two years ago, said she would be incredibly disappointed if the project were ditched and that she would fight with ministers to have the legislation passed, even taking a delegation to see Mr Sunak.
She added: "We promised it, and delivering it won’t be complicated. I think the naysayers are the people who don’t want to relinquish power but we need it. The current system, not least franchising and ticketing, is in dire need of reform."
Councillor Baggy Shanker, who looks set to be the new Labour leader of Derby City Council from next Wednesday (May 24) when the annual general meeting takes place, said that if the national rumours were true it would "demonstrate a disregard for the economic development and potential of Derby and its people".
He said: "The establishment of the GBR headquarters in Derby promises substantial economic benefits to the region. It is expected to attract investments, foster innovation, and create high-skilled jobs for the local workforce.
"Any sudden change in plans squanders these potential opportunities and sends a worrying signal to businesses and investors about the Government's wavering commitment to its own decisions. Derby deserves better than being sidelined and denied the opportunities it was promised."
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- ^ Derby beat off competition from five other well-known historic rail centres (www.derbytelegraph.co.uk)
- ^ host the GBR headquarters was originally delayed from last autumn (www.derbytelegraph.co.uk)
- ^ which will only have a fraction of the powers of then-PM Boris Johnson’s original blueprint. (www.derbytelegraph.co.uk)
- ^ Mid Derbyshire MP Pauline Latham, who championed Derby for the headquarters almost two years ago, (www.derbytelegraph.co.uk)
- ^ Sign up to our newsletter here. (data.reachplc.com)