Six English towns and cities have made the shortlist to become the home of Great British Railways (GBR) – the organisation that will take management of the national network back to the days of British Rail.
The contenders are Birmingham, Crewe, Derby, Doncaster, Newcastle-upon-Tyne or York. Forty-two towns and cities bid for the role, which is likely to provide a massive economic boost for the eventual winner.
Among those that will be especially disappointed by failing to make the shortlist are Darlington and nearby Stockton-on-Tees in County Durham, given that the world’s first public railway to use steam locomotives linked them in 1825.
The two strongest Scottish contenders, Dundee and Perth, were also overlooked, along with the English railway towns of Peterborough and Swindon – the latter being the home of the Museum of the Great Western Railway.
Hull, which has a train featured in a government promotional video about the shortlist, has been rejected.
The video, fronted by the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, invites the public to vote for their favourite. But their views will not be final.
The ultimate decision will be made by Mr Shapps later this year. He said: “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.”â¯
The leader of the Great British Railways transition team, Andrew Haines, said: “Since the competition was launched it has been great to see the interest from towns and cities across Britain who believe GBR’s home should be with them. I am really looking forward to the next step and seeing which town or city has the honour of being the home for GBR. Good luck to the final six.”
The criteria are:
Alignment to levelling up objectivesâ¯
Connected and easy to get toâ¯
Opportunities for GBRâ¯
Railway heritage and links to the networkâ¯
Value for moneyâ¯â¯
Great British Railways is intended to be “a single guiding mind that ends the fragmentation of the rail industry and drives benefits and improvements across the network for passengers and freight customers” – largely replicating the role of British Rail, which was effectively abolished during privatisation in the 1990s.
When the competition was first announced, The Independent predicted “a straight fight between Crewe and Derby” for the honour.