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Bishop's Stortford shunted into the sidings as Great British Railways headquarters short list is revealed

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Bishop’s Stortford has failed to make the cut in the race to become the headquarters of Great British Railways (GBR).

On Tuesday (July 5), Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the six short-listed sites from 42 contenders were Birmingham, Crewe, Derby, Doncaster, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and York. The ultimate winner will be picked via a public vote.

In May, Bishop’s Stortford’s MP, Conservative Julie Marson, was forced to backtrack after she claimed in the House of Commons that the town’s “brilliant bid” had been short-listed.

Hertford and Stortford MP Julie Marson in the House of Commons
Hertford and Stortford MP Julie Marson in the House of Commons

When asked by the Indie to clarify after our checks confirmed that a decision had not yet been made, Mrs Marson responded via social media: “To clarify, the short list has not yet been published. Bishop’s Stortford’s bid remains in the running. Fingers crossed!”

A base outside of London for GBR is part of Mr Shapps’ “once-in-a-generation reform” of railway services.

GBR, which replaces Network Rail in 2023, will integrate the railways, own the infrastructure, collect fare revenue, run and plan the network and set most fares and timetables. It will contract private partners to operate most trains to the timetables and fares it specifies.

Transport Secretary – and Welwyn Hatfield MP – Grant Shapps (57766418)
Transport Secretary – and Welwyn Hatfield MP – Grant Shapps (57766418)

Mr Shapps said as he confirmed the short list: “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.”

Applications for the headquarters were measured against six key criteria:

Bishop's Stortford railway station
Bishop's Stortford railway station
  • Alignment to levelling-up objectives
  • Connected and easy to get to
  • Opportunities for GBR
  • Railway heritage and links to the network
  • Value for money
  • Public support

Mrs Marson, who has represented the Hertford and Stortford constituency since December 2019, had highlighted the Goods Yard development at the town’s railway station as an appropriate location.

Solum – a partnership between Network Rail and construction company Kier – is developing a new gateway for the town including shops, a hotel, offices, two multi-storey car parks and 740 homes on the brownfield site.

Bishop's Stortford Goods Yard: Illustrative architect’s sketch of the development (57766472)
Bishop's Stortford Goods Yard: Illustrative architect’s sketch of the development (57766472)

Mrs Marson told the Commons: “The proposed Goods Yard site dates from 1842, and it is very fitting to have the possibility of returning rail to this historic site, which is itself a key town centre regeneration project.

“Our area has its own pockets of deprivation, and the jobs this would deliver would be a huge boost for our community and, overall, a great addition to our expanding but beautiful market town.”

She has not responded to an Indie request for further comment on the short list and Stortford’s failure.

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