Transport secretary Grant Shapps has said members of the public will be given the chance to decide where the headquarters of new railways body Great British Rail should be based.
A total of 42 towns and cities expressed an interest in hosting the new organisation, which is set to go live next year.
Today, Shapps named the six-strong shortlist as Birmingham; Crewe; Derby; Doncaster; Newcastle-upon-Tyne; and York.
But in a move that appears chiefly aimed at not offending residents of the five places that will be unsuccessful, Shapps said the public would be able to “play a crucial role” in his decision on the base for GBR.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
DfT said the six shortlisted towns and cities had been selected through criteria that included alignment to levelling up objectives; transport connections; opportunities for GBR; railway heritage and links to the network; value for money; and public support.
A web page set up to support the vote states that it is “non-binding” and will be only one factor that influences Shapps’ decision on the location for GBR’s headquarters. Other factors include the GBR transition team’s assessment of applicants’ expressions of interest against the selection criteria, value-for-money considerations, and the results of site visits set to take place in the coming weeks.
The creation of GBR was announced as part of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail last year. It will serve as a single, accountable public body responsible for running Britain’s railways.
Voting opens today and continues until 15 August.
The RMT union was dismissive of Shapps' latest proposals.
“This is yet another gimmick to disguise the government's disastrous handling of the railways,” a spokesperson said.