You may have heard about the "Aerotropolis" - the move toward a range of commercial activities and housing around airports. Hammered by Covid, resistance to airport expansion and environmental sustainability concerns, it is perhaps time for the Aerotropolis to step back.

Step in: Commuter train stations: traditionally the home of car parks, a taxi firm, maybe a cafe, mini estate agents and if you're lucky a kebab shop. They could offer so much more, the Aerotropolis concept bought forward on a smaller, more local scale to a more sustainable transport hub.

As many professional firms have proven during lockdown, 9-5 desk time is not necessary for productivity, with people finally trusted to work flexibly.

This trend could tie in neatly with the rejuvenation of commuter stations for a new model: attractive 'last mile workspace', benefitting from a new way of working. With people coming in fewer days a week, workers could arrive at say 8am as they might have before, work for 2-3 hours and (discarding their expensive season tickets) take off peak trips into town for meetings and socialising a couple of days a week. The days they would otherwise work from home, they would have an alternative dedicated workspace within easy reach. There is a new entrant in this area, led by former WeWork executives called RE-defined. We have met with them to understand their model and the potential benefits it can bring.

In addition to the new workspace hub, the area around these stations could thrive as other businesses are attracted in, from business services to wider retail, leisure and food offers. Particular stations could even make a name for themselves in a specific sector - knowledge sharing clusters have proven to boost a local economy.

To deliver this, the rail network, Train Operating Companies and Local Authorities will need to work together promote and encourage investment.