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Milton Keynes enters competition for national railway HQ

Milton Keynes will be bidding to become the headquarters of the new national public body responsible for running Britain’s railways.

Earlier this year Government revealed plans to put the nation’s railways under single, accountable national leadership for the first time in 25 years. The resulting body, Great British Railways (GBR) will become the face of rail transport from 2023.

GBR is seeking to commission its national headquarters in a location with a rich railway heritage and strong links to the network. The body will be searching outside London to ensure skilled jobs, investment and economic benefits are focused beyond the capital.

A competition to find the home of the new headquarters is expected to be launched imminently.

Milton Keynes is a strong contender at the heart of the modern network and with a raft of railway history. Midway between London (now just 30 minutes) and Birmingham (now 47 minutes) on the line developed by Robert Stephenson, Wolverton was named as the country’s ‘first railway town’ when The Wolverton Works were established in 1838. Royal Saloons have been built at the works for 150 years which remains the home of The Royal Train used by the British Royal Family when travelling.

The varsity line previously running through Bletchley connected brilliant minds from Oxford and Cambridge during the war effort and was a key reason Bletchley Park became the base for the incredible codebreaking work that shortened World War II by two years.

Now, Bletchley is to trace that line again with East West Rail, who moved its HQ to Milton Keynes in 2019. Around 5,000 people work at the Quadrant:MK, Network Rail’s £107m national centre adjacent to the central rail station. GBR will take over infrastructure management from Network Rail in 2023. EFKB and Gemini Rail Group are also based in MK.

Milton Keynes’ enviable location, large skilled labour pool, young population (46% of local people are aged under 35), available land, and deep bench of supporting knowledge industries make it an exciting prospect for large organisations looking to move and expand. Close to Quadrant:MK in the city centre, Santander is currently developing a £150m state of the art campus as its UK technology hub, expected to be home to 5,000 employees when it opens in 2022. Santander has also invested in MK:U, the first bricks and mortar university for Milton Keynes due to open in 2023.

Council Leader Cllr Pete Marland said: “Milton Keynes is an obvious contender to be the home of Britain’s railways. As well as our rich railway heritage, we have so much to offer a modern organisation – as evidenced by the sheer number of successful firms who have made their home here, and who continue to invest in their future here. We hope to welcome Great British Railway as they explore their options, to show them the talent and skills they can access in Milton Keynes as well as our brilliant urban and green spaces.”