Government launches online public vote to help choose HQ of Great British Railways

Public encouraged to submit their preference for location state-owned transport agency 

Crewe, which has a long history as a centre of the rail industry, is one of the six locations on the shortlist   Credit: Chris McKenna/CC BY-SA 4.0

The Great British public has been asked to vote online to help choose the headquarters of Great British Railways – the public body that is to replace Network Rail from next year.

The voting process was launched this week. It runs until 15 August and allows citizens to choose from a shortlist of six locations: Birmingham; Crewe; Derby; Doncaster; Newcastle; and York. 

The sextet were chosen from 42 that, earlier this year, submitted expressions of interest (EOI) in hosting the rail HQ. The shortlist was chosen based on six criteria cited by government: alignment to levelling-up objectives; connectedness and ease of travel to the rest of the UK; opportunities for Great British Railways; railway heritage; value for money; and public support

Visitors to the voting site can read the EOI submissions from each of the towns and cities before submitting their vote.

Once they have made their selection, voters are then asked to provide their postcode and agree not to vote more than once. If they wish, they can provide an email address to which a PDF summary of their vote will be sent.

The site then encourages voters to share their choice on social media, using the hashtag #DestinationGBR. 

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The Great British Railways Transition Team, which is leading the project to establish the new transport agency, said that the public vote on the location of the organisation’s head office is “non-binding”.

“The result of this vote will be used to measure the level of public support for each location and will be considered as part of final decision making,” said the GBRTT website. “The secretary of state for transport will make the final decision considering all elements of the process, including the following factors: GBRTT’s assessment of the applicants’ EOIs against the selection criteria; the understanding gained from visits [to each location]; the result of the public vote; [and] other public duties, such as managing public money.”

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “Our world-leading railways have served this country well for 200 years and this is a huge step in the reforms, which will shape our network for the next 200. Great British Railways will create a truly sustainable, modern and fair railway network for passengers and freight customers. I’m calling on people across the country to play a key part in this once-in-a-generation reform and vote for the new home of our railways.”

The RMT union called the process “yet another gimmick to disguise the government’s disastrous handling of the railways”.

Great British Railways is due to begin operating next year, from which point it will take over from Network Rail in managing rail infrastructure across England, Scotland and Wales – excepting that which is overseen by Transport for London. The organisation will also oversee the contracting of passenger services – including ticket prices and timetables.


Sam Trendall

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