David Biggs, director of property at Network Rail, delighted delegates at the Future of Sustainable Design conference with details of retail outlets on stations out performing recession-struck high street shops.
‘It’s retail on the way, not in the way,’ says Biggs. For several years now Network Rail Property has been hard at work unlocking the commercial potential of the industry’s railway stations. People like to shop as they travel to and from work and the huge footfall at stations is generating great business opportunities.
Property values rise
Importantly railway stations are now seen as generators of net wealth, health and jobs. Develop the station and see property values rise and local economics flourish.
The secret is community involvement and a sense of ownership best illustrated by the Junction Health Centre project, under the arches at Clapham Junction Station. The new heath centre was opened last year by local MP Jane Ellison and is proving a great success. The new health centre is still owned by Network Rail.
Continuing the theme of community responsibly, Crossrail is paying particular attention to the areas contiguous to new stations. Stuart Croucher of Crossrail described how new stations on Crossrail will enhance the urban area they served.
Croucher genially described the thinking of what he calls the men in flowery shirts and how they came up with stunning plans for Farringdon Station. The historic station is being given a massive upgrade to preserve its heritage and provide space for new Thameslink and Crossrail services that will make it one of London’s newest transport hubs.
Access for All Programme
Geoff Hobbs of TfL stressed London’s reliance on railways, never better illustrated than in this the year of the London Olympics. Stations are being deep cleaned, refurbished and improved under the Access for All Programme. Feras Alshaker of Southern and Paul Beaty-Pownall of BPR Architects Ltd stressed the need to work with the community, asking local people what else they want for their local stations.
The conference threw new light on the reasons behind Britain’s success at developing new and old railway stations. What is becoming increasingly clear is the importance of a transport hub as much more than simply a departure and arrival matrix.
Great commercial value
Often situated in town and city centres, at the heart of the communities they serve, railway stations represent great commercial value as well as an opportunity to display the social responsibility and community involvement for which the railway industry is already famed.
The Future of Sustainable Design was held at the Excel Centre in London and organised by Murray Media.