Network Rail regulation and performance

04.06.18

Business owners face closure as Network Rail pushes on with billion-pound asset sale

Business owners based in railway arches around the UK face closure as Network Rail goes ahead with plans to sell off infrastructure assets in a billion-pound sale.

Sole traders such as bakers, mechanics, bike repairs and shop owners will be priced-out by the publicly-owned rail scheme by rent increases of between 300% and 500% — some backdated as far as seven years ago with minimal notice — in an attempt to sell infrastructures off to private investors.

A buyer will purchase all 5,500 arches by the end of the year, which will allow tenants to remain. Yet many business owners have already been forced to close due to the soaring rents enforced by Network Rail.

Action group Guardians of the Arches has been set up to combat the plans to sell the arches to private firms. On its website, the group says: “We are already under huge pressure from Network Rail. Some of us have already been forced to close. Others have had to move out of places they’ve been doing business in for decades, with terrible consequences for their own businesses and for the places and communities they have had to leave behind.

“This has to stop. It’s easy to forget this, but Network Rail is publicly owned. And the land it owns is public too.

“That means they have a responsibility to serve the public good. They say the government is forcing them to balance the books, so they have to sell off their assets – including the arches. But how many small businesses will go under as a result? Is that really serving the public good?”

But a spokesman for Network Rail told Sky News: “The sale of Network Rail's arches will enable the company to raise funds to improve the railway network for the benefits of millions of daily users.

“Some areas have seen marked regeneration in recent years which can lead to increased rents but we will always do our best to stagger any increase.”

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