Destination Derby for Great British Railways

Last month Derby was announced as the new headquarters location for Great British Railways (GBR), in a Government promise to deliver high-skilled jobs and further levelling up in the region.

But why Derby? We take a look at its rich rail heritage and innovation.

Derby’s rail history

Derby has a long history in the rail industry that can be traced back to the 1830s, so it’s no surprise that the city will now be home to the new headquarters of Great British Railways (GBR HQ). Following an extensive assessment process and public voting, it was announced that Derby will be the best place for GBR HQ to set-up office, thanks to its good transport links and local talent pool.

42 towns and cities submitted expressions of interest to be the location for the headquarters, which was narrowed down to 6 finalists ahead of making the final decision – Derby, Doncaster, Crewe, Birmingham, York and Newcastle. With Derby receiving the highest score of 45,614 public votes – representing 22.22% of voters.

Historically Midland Railways (MR) had its headquarters in Derby – a company which ran between 1844 and 1922, before becoming London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMR) in 1923. From the Derby railway station, they developed locomotive, carriage and wagon works. Including Britain’s first mainline diesel-electric locomotive in 1947. After which centuries of rail development and innovation have been celebrated across Derby and the East Midlands region. It’s home to rolling stock giant Bombardier, who were acquired by Alstom in 2021. With Rolls-Royce also calling Derby it’s home – first opening in 1907.

Derby has decades of heritage in the rail industry, including the region’s own School of Transport, which was established in the late 1930s to teach students about rail operations and maintenance. Which, thanks to its rich infrastructure, allowed students to visit local sidings, workshops and rail tracks to gain hands-on experience.

What is Great British Railways?

Great British Railways (GBR) is a new Government body that will lead the way in delivering transition across the UK’s rail industry.

GBR will be the new public body railway company, tasked with delivering more frequent, reliable services, with better access to jobs and education opportunities.

It’s long-term strategy will support the economic, environmental and social development of the UK’s rail industry. With a 30 year ‘Plan for Rail’ that includes investment in the future of rail, prioritised in geographic areas that have historically been under invested. The plan also covers safety and efficiency, rail freight and cross-regional services, stations and infrastructure.

The Great British Railways project has been designed with both employees and customers in mind, with an emphasis on creating an environment that allows employees to grow professionally while also providing passengers with increased frequency of services at stations across the country.

In their bid, Derby proposed the Rail Technology Centre (RTC), as the location for the headquarters. Providing a modern and flexible space with direct transport links – with the added advantage of repurposing an existing site to make the construction of the new headquarters more sustainable.

Plans will now progress to bring the new headquarters to life, including a multi-million pound investment – with the Great British Railways Transition Team well established to oversee the works in conjunction with the UK Government’s Department for Transport.

NRL and the East Midlands

Here at NRL we’ve provided rail maintenance and contracting services since 2001 – working on local sites across the UK, including Derby and the East Midlands. We’re able to mobilise on-track teams nationally to provide asset inspection, grinding and ultrasonic testing services – including working on private tracks to support manufacturing sites and the transport and logistics industry.


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