Crewe submitted what was described as an “exceptional” bid to become the headquarters of Great British Railways (GBR). The Cheshire town, known for being the heart of Britain’s railways for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, is one of 42 locations that have offered to host the headquarters of the new national railway body.
The city’s ambition to rekindle its relationship with the country’s railroads has drawn support from across the country. One of those leading the campaign is record producer Pete Waterman, who recently urged people to “believe in Crewe” and support the offer.
It will face fierce competition from other towns and cities with strong railway heritages, including York, Derby and Darlington. But that didn’t dull the optimism of local leaders, who all gathered on Cheshire Day (Wednesday March 30) to back the bid.
READ MORE: Pete Waterman says he ‘believes in Crewe’ to back Great British Railways bid for town
Cheshire East Council leader Cllr Sam Corcoran said: ‘It has been fantastic to see the outpouring of support received for Crewe’s GBR bid not only from local people but also from the county, the region and beyond.
“Today is a great opportunity to celebrate that unity and the strength behind Crewe’s bid, and to recognize all that this important Cheshire town – one of the UK’s most connected – has to offer as a future headquarters of Great British Railways.”
The GBR Transition Team, which is managing the competition as well as the organization’s launch, recently confirmed the names of the bidders when releasing the long list of entrants. But what happens now?
The team is currently reviewing each submitted offer “through a rigorous evaluation process”. It will then be narrowed down to a shortlist of candidates, which is expected to be released in May.
This will then be followed by a non-binding but influential public vote, which will be held online. This “will be part of the criteria” to identify GBR’s home before a winner is announced this summer.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘It’s great to see so many places across the country applying to become Great British Railways’ new headquarters. All of the entries show how proud we should be as a nation of our long rail history.
“Now we are moving full steam ahead with shortlisting for the public vote, as we unleash all the energy and enthusiasm of Brits for trains, to find the home of GBR .”
Each area that submits a bid will be assessed on a number of criteria, including suitability for ‘levelling’ objectives, being connected and easily accessible, having rail heritage and links to the network, offering good value for money and win public support. .
There are four key steps in the process:
Step 1 Deadline for expressions of interest from potential bidders set for 16 March.
2nd step Shortlists announced in May.
Step 3 After the pre-selection, the ministers will visit the pre-selected cities and a public vote will take place.
Step 4 The location of the new HQ will be announced this summer.
The competition was launched by the government in February, months after the announcement of the creation of GBR, which will oversee and manage the country’s railways. The head office will be based outside London and will bring “a number of highly skilled jobs” to the winning site.
It is hoped that GBR will “end the fragmentation of the rail industry” as the government tries to improve services for passengers and freight customers.
Andrew Haines, GBR Transition Team Leader, said: “We are going to make rail easier and better for everyone in Britain and to do that we need to get closer to the communities we serve.
“This competition has clearly captured the imagination of people across the country who have a passion for the role trains play in their region. I’m excited to see what each town and city can contribute as GBR headquarters .”
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Announced last year as part of the Williams-Shapps plan for rail, GBR will be the ‘single guiding mind’ overseeing the UK’s rail infrastructure, with the aim of ‘ending the fragmentation of the industry railway”.
Shapps says it’s about simplifying the industry to do things faster, cut costs and be more responsible. It’s about having a culture of “can do” not “can’t do”, and put customers first.
The headquarters would bring a “number of highly skilled jobs” to the winning location, with the creation of other regional offices that would help boost other local economies.
Mr Shapps said: “Our railways have kept this country moving for almost 200 years, but it’s time to usher in a new era that will shape our network for the next 200.”