YORK is “oven ready” to be the home of the new Great British Railways (GBR), according to city MP Julian Sturdy.

The York Outer MP hosted a parliamentary debate yesterday, setting out the case for York to host the HQ for the new body that will bring the ownership and management of the railways under one structure.

In the debate, Mr Sturdy stressed the importance of railways to York, it’s close rail links to other areas and city centre locations available for the HQ.

The MP said York has an ‘unrivalled skills base’ in rail, employing 5,500 people, 10% of the national total. It is also at the centre of the UK’s largest rail cluster, with over 100 relevant companies employing 9,500 people within one hour of York.

The region also boasts 13 leading rail education providers, including Selby College, plus York College, the home of the Yorkshire and Humber Institute of Technology.

York is also home to Network Rail’s training centre and its biggest rail control centre, with it employing 1000 in the city.

“The same vote of confidence in York should be made by its successor organisation.”

Looking to the future, Mr Sturdy also noted the University of York is also a pioneer in rail automation.

The debate also saw cross-party support from York Central MP Rachael Maskell, who said: “York has the engineers, the operators and the skillset needed for advancing digital rail in the future, the very skills that are needed by Great British Railways.”

But Mr Sturdy said the ‘best’ reason for York hosting the new HQ was the York Central brownfield regeneration site.

The 45 ha of disused railway tracks and railway depots next to York station promise more than 2,500 new homes and, crucially, 112,000 square metres of high-quality commercial office space.

“Work has already started on clearing the site,” he said, adding: “As the Prime Minister would say, this is an oven-ready proposition for Great British Railways, providing a unique chance to build the new headquarters on a city-centre brownfield site in which Network Rail is a major partner and landowner.”

But the MP also said City of York Council has also put forwards other city centre office locations.

In response, Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris confirmed that the new headquarters would be based outside of London and that the Government was looking for a town or city with a strong rail heritage and skills base, with the capacity to act as the administrative centre for the national rail network.

Whilst the bidding process is in its early stages, the Minister confirmed that York had been first in raising a comprehensive case for hosting GBR.

After the debate, Mr Sturdy said it had been an “important step” in pushing York’s case. He also thanked local MPs and the City of York Council for their support.