Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Arch Enemies

Hold onto your hats, there's a long rant coming on...By August this year, Network Rail wants to sell off ALL of the 5,500 railway arches in its possession to the highest bidder. Network Rail have valued the arches at around £1bn, and already the sharks are circling. Some of the biggest names in property and financial speculation are lining up bids, from Goldman Sachs to Terra Firma. Many of us do not believe these companies have the people’s interests at heart.
Please forget all those black and white films of the 50s, where the railway arches were often portrayed as the haunts of petty criminals, or George Cole in Minder during the 80s, [my mate 'as a lock-up in 'Ackney', where we can stash all this stuff]
Most of the arches in use now are where people are running useful small business- bakers, brewers, craftspeople, mechanics, beauticians, caterers.... These are people who are contributing to the economy and helping to sustain trade in the local communities.
NR are putting up their rents by anything up to 400% which is driving these people out of business[and therefore freeing up the vacant premises ready for NR's sell-off]
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? How many entrepreneurs will lose the will to carry on when they’re facing unpayable rent demands? And how many of the communities who rely on these businesspeople will suffer as a result? Is that really serving the public good?
Who is at the sharp end of this sell-off? What is the human cost of this approach?
·        A garage owner whose 92-year-old dad ran the business for 60 years but couldn’t carry on when faced with a 500% rent rise
·        A nationally renowned bakery concerned that the neighbourhood which sustains the business will collapse because nearby firms are being driven out one by one
·         A motorcycle repair shop facing a 300% in-year rent increase after Network Rail took away their security of tenure
These are not big businesses, with easy access to corporate lawyers to fight their case. These are simple, honest workers.
This is wrong!
I'm not alone in thinking this
Cat Hobbs, of the campaign group We Own It, said: “Railway land belongs to all of us – we don’t want it parcelled up and sold to the highest bidder. This is an asset which generates millions every year, money which should be returned to the public purse not disappear into private profits.”
Unions and campaigners have condemned the sale. Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT union, said: “This is the same old bunch of chancers, speculators and asset strippers queuing up to make another killing at the expense of our public services. These property assets make a decent income for Network Rail and once they are gone they are gone, smashing another gaping hole in the rail infrastructure budget.”
A campaigning group, Guardians of the Arches, has been set up, to fight for the rights of these people.
The government has already lost 4.2 billion pounds in a previous sell-off to Terra Firma [described as a rotten deal for taxpayers] and yet that are bidding for the arches.
The Gentle Author at Spitalfields Life has flagged up this issue, and I am grateful to him for doing so.
You can read more here- and sign a letter to the Secretary of State too.
These are the ordinary people, hardworking, not seeking to get rich quick, just men and women wanting to earn an honest wage and support their families. They are local people, part of their communities - and everyone locally will be the poorer if they are pushed out.
These are the arches near Liz, at Elephant and Castle. They've already pulled down The Heygate, the 1970s housing complex, as part of 'Urban Regeneration'. Opposite the arches now, you will see the new Elephant Park complex. It has been reported that every one of the new flats [not all completed yet] has been sold to overseas investors. It is bad enough that Southwark Council have screwed up people's homes - do not let Network Rail mess up their livelihoods too.
It isn't just Londoners- this NR sell off will affect those people up and down the country who rent property 'underneath the arches' - and in the end will affect all of us. 
Long rant over- thank you for reading to the end.
btw there is no truth in the rumour that I suggested Bob should apply for the post of chaplain to these people - and thereby become an Arch-Bishop!


  1. Network Rail do seam to be getting a lot of things wrong of late. They have spent a long time electrifing the rail system from Preston to Blackpool. It took a month or so longer than planned but to be fair there were some pretty bad weather conditions over winter. However since the reopening of the rail network they've had a poor train service with trains being cancelled without notice. This has been due to the lack of train drivers. Why didn't they train them up on other electric trains whilst the work was being done? I understand that the Virgin train from Blackpool to London is running well.
    The government don't appear to realise that selling off their assests is a short term solution that dosn't work

  2. Apart from all that (and I am ranting with you!) Network Rail presumably keep an eye on the building maintenance, as the trains run over the arches. Can't see private owners being so interested 8f they're anything like some of the private landlords I've had 😞

  3. Lyunn- unfortunately it seems NR have not kept up the maintenance in some places. There are reports of small business having to put up temporary ceilings INSIDE their arches, because bricks fall down whever trains rumble above them! And I agree, many private landlords are even worse!

  4. I rather like the idea of Bob as an Arch-Bishop! :)

  5. You are the queen of Word play!!
    This is disgusting what they are doing. I just don't get it, they are ridiculous for selling off things as inevitably, when things go wrong, they'll have to stump for the maintenance and yet more jobs for normal people are going to go. Our friends run a very successful brewing company under an arch at Herne Hill, I wonder how it will affect them?
    The whole Virgin Trains debacle on the East Coast line through Newcastle proves that private companies can't be trusted!


Always glad to hear from you - thanks for stopping by!
I am blocking anonymous comments now, due to excessive spam!