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Go! Co-operative on track to create rail travel of the future
One of the newest co-operatives in the country - Go! Co-operative (www.go-now.coop) - looks set to shape the future of rail travel as it prepares to become the first co-operatively-owned train operating company (TOC) in the UK.
Go! Co-operative is seeking funding from socially-minded investors to raise upwards of £250,000 to support initial work as the first open access train provider running as a multi-stakeholder co-operative.
A co-operatively-owned train company will bring passengers, the local community and employees together in an organisation designed to create a real alternative to private car use. Go! Co-operative’s stated aim is to improve access to public transport by providing open access rail services linking main lines to smaller market towns and villages.
Initially planning to provide a service in Southern England, if successful, Go! would become the fifth TOC to take advantage of the principle of open access to rail lines and will provide much-needed connections for otherwise isolated rural locations.
Go! Co-operative plans to reduce the social and environmental impacts of travel by providing mutually-owned, high quality and inclusive public transport services that encourage people to choose more sustainable options.
Go! Co-operative will be shunning the overcrowded routes to London in favour of developing better links between smaller towns and villages, in order to help improve the economic prospects of more rural locations. And the new co-operative will also look to provide light rail and bus links as well as car clubs to enable even the most remote communities to access these services.
Tim Pearce, Chair of Go! Co-operative said: “Routes to the Capital are oversubscribed and it is our intention to serve those other communities that don’t have good connections to urban centres. Cross-country connections are important and we are looking to potential routes in the South on existing rail networks.”
Such an investment, will offer both social and financial returns and membership is open to individuals, corporate bodies, voluntary organisations and public sector investors.
To become a member requires a minimum of 500 shares, with each share costing £1, and applications can be made via the prospectus on the website. (www.go-now.coop/workspace/uploads/files/offer_document_%28web%29.pdf)
As a co-operative, each shareholding member has one vote, regardless of the size of their shareholding, with the maximum permissible shareholding set at £20,000.
“And because Go! is an Industrial and Provident Society rather than a company,” Tim added, “it is allowed to issue its withdrawable share capital to the public.
“Investors that later become users or potential users of the service will have half of the votes at general meetings, while employees will have a quarter. Those whose only stake in the business is financial will be limited to the remaining quarter of the votes; this is a requirement of being a co-operative, and prevents the business from being driven by short term profit.”
The Go! Co-operative initiative has been given extra support by a recently published document - Connecting Communities (www.go-now.coop/workspace/uploads/files/connectingcommunitiesreport_s10.pdf) - from the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC).
“ATOC has established the need to connect more towns to the rail network”, Tim said.
“And while ATOC has focused on the new infrastructure that might be required, we are aiming to achieve the same ends by making better use of the lines that are already there, and we hope to develop routes within Southern England and create links where they don’t currently exist.”
Go! Co-operative believes it can raise the necessary investment and, assuming it does, hopes to gain route authorisation next year and begin services in 2011.
More information about Go! Co-operative, can be found at www.go-now.coop.