WITH twin cities spread across the world, it was only a matter of time before Oxford sought out another to really stand out from the crowd.

However, few could’ve expected where the city’s latest ‘twin’ would come from.

In contrast to the usual centres of culture and learning, Oxford has been twinned with the home of Thomas the Tank Engine – the Island of Sodor.

The accolade is in recognition of the city’s achievement in topping a new ‘Thomas & Friends Friendship Index’ as the UK’s friendliest city.

A special ceremony saw a sign unveiled at Oxford train station, in order to mark International Friendship Day.

In attendance was the Fat Controller himself, Sir Topham Hatt from the Thomas & Friends books and TV shows, and Mark Lygo, Lord Mayor of Oxford.

Mr Lygo said: “It’s great news that Oxford has been voted the friendliest city in the UK and I want to thank Thomas & Friends for confirming something that I think our residents have known for a long time.

“Oxford is made up from many diverse communities all of which have benefitted from and added to the city’s long traditions of friendliness and inclusivity, which have proved so important, especially over the last 18 months.

“Indeed, Oxford has friends all over the world and we are proud of our international links, including twinning with Bonn, Grenoble, Leiden, Padua, Wroclaw, Perm, León, and Ramallah.

“Now, as we come out of lockdown, I want to encourage visitors to come and visit our vibrant, friendly city and experience all that it has to offer – a warm welcome awaits you.”

Oxford Mail:
The Fat Controller with the Lord Mayor of Oxford Mark Lygo. Picture: PA

Oxford achieved its special new status after 3,000 people from across the UK ranked towns and cities according to friendliness of residents.
Oxford pipped Wrexham to the top spot, with Gloucester and Aberdeen in third and fourth respectively.

Respondents were asked questions about kindness, encouragement and looking after others.

Claudia Caron, UK marketing manager for Thomas & Friends, said: “The gift of friendship is truly wonderful and something we have proudly celebrated in Thomas & Friends for over 75 years, so we would like to offer a huge congratulations to Oxford for being the friendliest city in our very first Thomas & Friends Friendship Index. 

“We are delighted to officially twin the city with the Island of Sodor, home of Thomas the Tank Engine, in recognition of its incredible friendly status.” 

Six other cities across the globe gained the honour of being twinned with the Island of Sodor, including Auckland, Naples and Sydney.

A fictional island, Sodor is loosely based on the Isle of Man.