The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that Birmingham has made the shortlist to become the home of Great British Railways (GBR) - a new public sector body which will oversee Britain’s railways.
It is in the running with Crewe, Derby, Doncaster, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and York which are also facing a public vote. A total of 42 locations entred bids.
The online public vote on the six shortlisted locations for its headquarters has been opened. The outcome will “play a crucial role” but the final decision will be made by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps later this year, according to the DfT.
The creation of GBR was included in the Queen’s Speech in May. It is hoped the organisation will simplify the rail network and improve services for passengers by absorbing the state-owned infrastructure management company Network Rail and taking on many functions from the DfT.
GBR will issue passenger service contracts to private companies to run trains. It is hoped the rebrand of GBR will replace franchise train companies with contracts, and incentivise private firms on punctuality rather than raising revenue - it is the biggest shake-up of the rail industry since privatisation in the early 1990s
Why is Birmingham bidding to host the GBR HQ?
The Birmingham Conservative Group launched a campaign for Great British Railway HQ to come to the city in February. Cllr Robert Alden called for the leader of Birmingham City Council to back the bid.
Cllr Alden said “Birmingham has a rich history with the railways and the City’s central location would be great as the organisation seeks a home outside of London. The City Council should be fighting hard to secure opportunities like this as they will bring well paid jobs to Birmingham residents.”
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, and chair of the WMCA, said: “Birmingham combines a unique rail heritage with an unparalleled concentration of modern expertise that means we are ideally suited to shape the next century of railway excellence by playing host to the GBR headquarters.
“A Birmingham base would put GBR at the heart of the nation’s rail network and close to its customers – with 94 million rail journeys made here in the region each year.
“Birmingham as well as the wider West Midlands is already at the forefront of innovation in transport design, policy, planning, technology and engineering – thanks in part to our central role in flagship projects like HS2 and Very Light Rail.
“This means we are blessed with a wealth of talent to draw on as we look ahead to the future of the railways and a wonderful chance to bring jobs, civic pride and economic opportunity for our local residents. The momentum is with us and if GBR chooses Birmingham as its home, then it’s full steam ahead.”
Councillor Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham city council, and who holds WMCA portfolio holder for transport, said: “More and more major investors and organisations are choosing to relocate in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands because this region is well-connected, has quality office space and offers a great quality of life.
“Great British Railways would receive a warm welcome here in Birmingham and, as Europe’s youngest and most diverse city, with a deep and diverse pool of talent, this city is in a unique position to help create a railway that’s both inclusive and fit for the future.
“This would also be great for our city, bringing jobs, supporting our local businesses and pulling in even more investment, which is why I strongly encourage people to get behind the city’s bid and show your support.”
What has Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said about the shortlist?
Mr 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 “central headquarters” will provide strategic direction for the running of GBR, and bring “highly skilled jobs to the area”, the DfT said. There will also be “regional headquarters across the country”.
How many applications were put forward to host the new GBR HQ?
Forty-two towns and cities entered bids to host GBR. Applications were measured against six key criteria, which were: alignment to levelling up objectives, connected and easy to get to, opportunities for GBR, railway heritage and links to the network, value for money and public support.
To vote for Birmingham go to: Great British Railway public vote
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