Since the announcement last week of major reforms to Britain’s railways, attention has (quite rightly) focused on its impacts on passengers. Simplified fares, flexible season tickets and new spaces for bikes on trains all suggest that the rail network is preparing itself for life after COVID-19. But with passenger numbers potentially falling or moving away from peak times and Government purse strings tight, the spotlight will be on GBR to deliver financially, and unlock revenue streams across the rail network. There will also be additional benefits around generating space for much needed housing, as well as employment and leisure uses.
Development opportunities at stations are often de-railed (sorry!) by the restrictions required to safeguard the operational estate, and challenges securing vacant possession. Leases held by operating franchises or TOCs (Train Operating Companies) are far-reaching, complex, and often extend over surplus land and excess car parks.
The reforms present an opportunity to rethink operational leases, redefine boundaries, and bring development opportunities under the sole control of GBR. It has been well evidenced that transport nodes drive value, and reforming TOC leases is an opportunity for the rail network to benefit from the value it creates. BTR, flexible offices and station retail present sustainable income opportunities that GBR must embrace.
And so, as the Reformation Train departs, here’s to hoping much needed development has a first class ticket and complimentary refreshments!