SWINDON’S rich history makes it the “right choice” to become a new national railways HQ.
That is the view of both of the town’s MPs, who have thrown their weight behind an upcoming Swindon Borough Council bid which – if successful – will bring fresh investment and jobs.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced towns and cities outside London will have the chance to compete for the right to host the new Great British Railways headquarters this year.
And for his former cabinet colleague, South Swindon MP Robert Buckland, all of the signs point to the town transformed into an industrial giant by Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Great Western Railway in the mid-19th century.
Newly-knighted Sir Robert said: “Swindon has an unparalleled history when it comes to the railways, as the birthplace of the Great Western Railway and being at the heart of Brunel’s magnificent railway vision.
“But this is not just about the past, it is about the present and the future, and it is absolutely right for Swindon to be at the forefront of any bidding process.
“I absolutely think Swindon would be the right choice and I will do everything I can to help with a vigorous bid.”
GBR was unveiled last May in a major government reform designed to ensure decisions about the railway are brought closer to the passengers and communities they serve.
In October, Mr Shapps’ department promised the national HQ will be outside London “ensuring skilled jobs, investment and economic benefits are focused beyond the capital”.
The government added: “The competition will recognise towns and cities with a rich railway history that are strongly linked to the network ensuring the first headquarters will take pride of place at the heart of a new era for Britain’s railways.”
Conservative MP for North Swindon Justin Tomlinson said: “Our proud railway heritage, accessible location, diverse and skilled workforce and Swindon Borough Council’s willingness to embrace investment opportunities puts down a positive marker for Swindon.”
Former deputy leader of the council and chairman of the growing the economy overview and scrutiny committee Russell Holland has also told the Adver he is in favour.
Coun Holland said: “This is a really excellent opportunity for Swindon.
“It was on September 13 1840 that Daniel Gooch, the newly appointed locomotive superintendent of the Great Western Railway, at just 21, wrote to Brunel to recommend Swindon as the ‘principal engine establishment’ for the GWR.
“Growing up in Swindon I remember visiting the railway works in the 80s, not long after they had been closed while at junior school. The guides painted vivid picture about what life was like in the railway. More recently, I greatly enjoyed seeing Railway Town at the Wyvern Theatre, a brilliant film which captures the spirit of Swindon’s industrial growth.
“While the railway works have gone, our fantastic Designer Outlet still preserves the railway heritage for shoppers who travel from miles around, passing other cities to experience Swindon.”
But Swindon faces competition for the title, with Southampton, Crewe, York, Doncaster and Eastleigh all submitting bids to become the railways HQ.
A council spokesman said the local authority will be releasing more details on a potential bid soon.