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Swindon and Oxford. A middle-of-the-day service to Birmingham would cater for the leisure market. Go! expects to use refurbished rolling stock and traction similar to those being used by Wrexham & Shropshire. Using that sort of train set would help to

avoid pathing issues with high-speed Great Western Main Line services. The group has also indicated that it will continue to investigate procuring new DMU vehicles, although it says that presently there isn’t a business case for buying new trains. Negotiations have already started with

both Network Rail and the Office of Rail Regulation. The group is expecting the approval process to take at least nine months, but it often takes much longer. The prospectus talks of raising money

through share issues and a possible joint venture to help it through initial stages prior to start-up. The document states: ‘Having begun to operate the service and established its credibility, Go! would be able to buy a progressively larger stake in the venture.’ Chris Phillimore says: ‘We have already

managed to raise £100,000 from just the ethical investor/co-operative sector and are receiving a good response from our launch events. We know this is the high-risk phase as the track access contract is not guaranteed, but we are encouraged by our engagements with Office of Rail Regulation and Network Rail.’

Go! is hopeful that its new service could

be up and running late next year. In some parts of the media, it’s been described as a ‘not-for-profit’ company, which appears to be a popular misconception. Phillimore says: ‘Co-ops are businesses

and must make a return for their investors. Where they differ fundamentally is the way that profit is distributed. In our case, amongst not just financial investors, but also users and employees. Also we are a “one member one vote” organisation and there are restrictions on voting rights. Financial investors will get a higher percentage of the financial return in the form of a dividend, but some profits (when they arise) are ploughed back into the business.’ The group isn’t just interested in heavy

rail services. One of its original intentions was to develop short lines to feed into existing cross-country routes. Branches in Yeovil, Weymouth and Oxford were considered, but for technical reasons could not be quickly turned into viable public transport routes. A more immediate proposition, according to the prospectus, is a line on the border

PAGE 24 JUNE 2010


between Wiltshire and Hampshire. A branch line in the small town of Ludgershall near Andover could be converted for use by a light railcar, similar to that currently operating in Stourbridge in the West Midlands. Go! says it’s been working closely with

Lightweight Community Transport, a social enterprise providing leasing of light rail vehicles. Phillimore says: ‘We have made some interesting enquiries of suppliers in Europe and even the Far East, who are developing vehicles that combine the reduced operational cost of hybrid/stored energy vehicles, with more dynamically and constructionally conventional vehicles. We are looking to work with Network Rail and other parties to develop the project, initially to a trial stage. We are receiving considerable interest from local authorities in our ideas generally.’ With at least one party manifesto, during

the recent general election campaign, talking about the welcoming franchise bids from not- for-profit, mutual or co-operative franchise enterprises, it appears to be a good time for Go! to unveil its plans. But the big question is what would Robert Owen, the founder of the Co-operative movement, make of plans to runs trains as a Co-op? Chris Phillimore says: ‘I think he would

see it as a logical extension of the co-operative model. He believed that people were a product of their environment and this is a cornerstone of the Co-operative movement. If an individual has a say in his environment he will be made better and more fulfilled. It’s something we hope will apply to our employees and users!’

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