York the Great British Railways HQ location for levelling up - Rachael Maskell MP

Where else can Great British Railways locate itself but in York if it is to level up the whole country?

That really must be the argument we make.

The York Rail Innovation Community already oversees the intersection of rail businesses and innovations, enabling the northern rail economy to generate more than £42bn, according to the University of Leeds.

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It draws on the University of York’s Institute for Safe Autonomy, bringing new technologies and robotics together, and opening up a new conversation for the future of rail and the future of transportation, and modernising how we think about rail and transport.

A train pulls into York railway station, July 29, 1949. Photo by Monty Fresco/Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

The institute’s £12m programme leads global research to provide industry, regulators and researchers with guidance on assuring and regulating robotics and autonomous systems, including those on rail.

York’s work is setting global standards and ensuring that such systems are safe.

Taking the search for answers into applied testbeds, such as the advanced rail test facilities, widens possibilities and the collaborations between York, Leeds, Sheffield, Huddersfield and Hull.

This is not just a rail cluster, but a transport cluster.

Interlink that with the new headquarters of Active Travel England, and we will have end-to-end connectivity and endless possibilities.

Now that the Government are seeing such enthusiasm for BioYorkshire, Yorkshire’s green new deal and advancing a new generation of fuels, including links to the Teesside and Humber energy clusters, even more future technologies open up, with new innovations between transport and energy clusters.

The electric vehicle revolution is too slow, too expensive, with too little infrastructure and too few people engaged, and it is not sustainable


We need travelling by train to be competitive with travelling by road. Pricing matters. Rail advancement will be far more efficient, faster, cleaner and greener, if we are to decarbonise and claim the climate dividend to keep the target of 1.5 degrees alive. That must be our bicentenary challenge.

As a nation, there are significant challenges we need to address. Post pandemic, the trains need to see patronage restored and advanced, better timetabling and intermodal end-to-end connectivity, not least connectivity from main lines to improved branch lines, to consolidate opportunity.

The very best industry expertise across the railways in York is ready to rise to the challenge.

With fuel prices escalating, the Government must seize the moment to achieve a sustained and sustainable modal shift.

Although the integrated rail plan came as a bitter blow to us in Yorkshire, centring Great British Railways’ future on driving up patronage, accessibility, connectivity and reliability across the towns and cities of our region will address some of the Williams-Shapps plans.

I know other colleagues will reinforce the point and urge the door not to be closed on our ambition.

York has the very best of our rail past and present, but in politics we cannot change the past; it is the future that is placed in our hands.

I look at the girls and boys in my city, who are all mesmerised by our rail story.

The National Rail Museum’s new galleries will give them the first taste of rail engineering and spark their ambition to be the planners, operators and engineers of the future

as they embark on their science, technology, engineering and maths journey.

Our collective ambition will realise the potential power of York’s rail intersectional clusters to deliver the very best rail future—all delivered on the site of the old British Rail carriage works, adjacent to just about the best-connected station in the country.

Great British Railways will be no add-on in York; it will anchor Britain’s rail future, ignite Britain’s rail ambition and deliver the next chapter of our Great British Railways revolution like no other place can.

The bicentenary of rail gives the Minister of State, Department for Transport the opportunity to invest in the future of passenger and freight.

That will be the pride of my city, and that is our offer to the future of rail.

Rachael Maskell is the Labour MP for York Central. This is an edited extract of a Parliamentary speech.